The AFC conference championship matched up the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. The Colts were coming off a 24-13 win over the Denver Broncos and the Patriots were coming off a 35-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski sent the opening kickoff nine yards deep into the end zone and return man Josh Cribbs returned it to the 21-yard line. From the get go, it looked like the Colts would rather be playing a game in their cozy dome. Heavy rain and gusty winds made it difficult for quarterback Andrew Luck to complete a pass. The Colts gained two yards on their first possession and were forced to punt. Punter Pat McAfee got off a nice 53-yard punt that was fielded by return man Julian Edelman at the New England 24. He returned it 20 yards and the Patriots started their first possession of the game at the 44-yard line.
Just like the Colts, the Patriots couldn’t get a first down and punted the ball away. Punter Ryan Allen got off a high 27-yard punt that hit Cribbs squarely in the face. The ball hit the ground and was recovered by linebacker Darius Fleming at the Indianapolis 26-yard line. That gave the Patriots great field position and a shot to take an early lead. Quarterback Tom Brady completed two passes to Edelman and running back LeGarrette Blount ran up the left side for eight yards. That moved the ball down to the four and he appeared to score a touchdown on the next play. However, replay showed his knee was down before the ball crossed the goal line. That wasn’t much of an obstacle for Blount as he got the call again and found the end zone. Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 7-0 with 10:15 to go in the first quarter.
The Colts started at their 20 and got off to a good start as running back Daniel Herron ran up the left side for 12 yards. Another run by Herron, a scramble by Luck and a defensive holding penalty on the Patriots netted another first down at the 44-yard line. Completions to tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen moved the ball into New England territory. Some more carries by Herron got the Colts another first down at the New England 33-yard line. But that was followed by three straight incomplete passes. To make it worse, kick Adam Vinatieri missed a 51-yard field goal attempt. With 4:50 to go in the first quarter, the score remained 7-0.
From the New England 41-yard line, Brady completed a pass to Edelman for 12 yards. That was followed by a 30-yard pass to running back Shane Vereen. On third and ten from the Indianapolis 17, Brady found Edelman again for a gain of 12 yards. Two plays later, Brady tossed a short pass to fullback James Develin for a one-yard touchdown. Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 14-0 with 1:20 to go in the first quarter.
As usual, the Colts couldn’t move the ball again and McAfee punted again. The Patriots took over at their 30 and some more good running got the Patriots rolling. Completions to wide receiver Danny Amendola, Edelman and fullback Michael Hoomanawanui moved the ball to the Indianapolis 26-yard line. From the 26, Brady looked for tight end Rob Gronkowski. The ball was under-thrown and picked off by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson at the one-yard line. Jackson returned the ball to the seven and the Colts definitely dodged a bullet.
Luck completed a nine-yard pass to Allen and a personal foul penalty on defensive tackle Vince Wilfork gave the Colts a first down at their 31-yard line. A short run by running back Zurlon Tipton and a 36-yard completion to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton netted a first down at the New England 31-yard line. Two more completions to Fleener and an illegal contact penalty on the Patriots put the ball at the one-yard line. From there, Tipton finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Vinatieri made the point after and the Patriots led 14-7 with 4:54 to go in the second quarter.
The Patriots took over at their 32-yard line and Brady hooked up with Vereen and Edelman to get the ball moving. Blount carried the ball three straight times and that moved them down to the Indianapolis 26-yard line. A roughing the passer penalty on the Colts and a scramble by Brady netted another first down at the three-yard line. Instead of trying to power the ball up the middle with Blount, the Patriots tried three pass plays. Each pass was incomplete and the Patriots settled for a field goal attempt. Gostkowski had no trouble making his 21-yard attempt and the Patriots led 17-7 at halftime.
The second half was all about the Patriots. The Colts continued to struggle mightily on offense. They had control of the ball for just under three minutes in the third quarter. They ran ten plays and gained 32 yards. The Patriots had no problem moving the ball on their first possession of the second half. Brady connected with offensive tackle Nate Solder for a 16-yard touchdown. That was followed by a five-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski. Blount got in on the action again and ran for two more touchdowns. When it was all said and done, the Patriots came away with 45-7 blowout.
For the Colts, Andrew Luck completed 12 of 33 for 126 yards and two interceptions. Dwayne Allen led the team in receptions with four and T.Y. Hilton had the most receiving yards with 36. All those yards came on one catch. As a team, the Colts ran for 83 yards on 19 carries. Daniel Herron had the most yards on the ground with 51 on ten carries. Defensively, cornerback Greg Toler led the team in solo tackles with nine.
For the Patriots, Tom Brady completed 23 of 35 for 226 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Julian Edelman led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 98. LeGarrette Blount had a huge game running the ball. He finished the game with 148 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns. Defensively, linebackers Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich and Dont’a Hightower tied for the lead in solo tackles with three apiece. The Patriots held on to the ball for nearly 38 minutes and out-gained the Colts 397-209.
The win enabled the Patriots to go on to the Super Bowl to face the Seattle Seahawks. That game will be played on February 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ at 6:30 eastern time. At the present time, the Seahawks are 2.5 point favorites.