The New England Patriots took a different route than usual to their first playoff game on Jan. 11. Although the Patriots won 12 games and had a bye, there were many games that they had no business winning, thanks to a decimated core and Tom Brady's occasional struggles. As such, it made sense that New England won differently than usual in the postseason as well, with the running game doing all the damage in a 43-22 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
It looked like Andrew Luck would make more of a difference for the Patriots early on, as he threw an interception within seconds that led to a short LeGarrette Blount touchdown run. Within minutes, the Patriots drove down for another Blount score that made it 14-0, making it look like the Colts would get run off the field.
Luck got Indianapolis back on its feet with a touchdown pass to LaVon Brazill, yet Blount countered with a third short touchdown run in the second quarter. However, an injury to punter Ryan Allen and a subsequent safety cut the Patriots' lead to 21-12 at halftime, with the Colts closing it to 21-15 at the start of the third quarter.
Just when it looked like the Colts would have their second big comeback of the postseason, the Patriots drove down again, as a third-down pass interference penalty set up a Stevan Ridley touchdown run and a two-point conversion. Luck connected with Brazill again to make it 29-22 in short order, but Blount would finally put the nail on the Colts in the fourth.
After three goal-line touchdowns, Blount exploded for a 73-yard run to cap off a four touchdown night. Luck's answer to that back-breaking score was his third of four interceptions, which the Patriots used to set up Ridley's second touchdown. All told, all 43 Patriots points came on the ground while Brady did little but manage the game, much like in his early years.
This has been a season where Brady has had no full time healthy receivers, where the Patriots needed major comebacks just to make the playoffs, and where Blount and Ridley have suddenly emerged to take the load off. Somehow, it has carried the Patriots to their third straight AFC title game -- and they can even host their third straight title game if the San Diego Chargers upset the Denver Broncos.