Patriots rout Colts in AFC title game; will play Seahawks in Super Bowl
No coach has more postseason wins than Bill Belichick. No quarterback has been to more Super Bowls than Tom Brady.
And these New England Patriots are so much more than that dynamic duo, as the overwhelmed Indianapolis Colts learned.
Belichick and Brady earned their sixth trip to the big game — and Belichick got his 21st postseason win — with the second-most lopsided AFC championship ever, 45-7 before a raucous, rain-soaked crowd Sunday night.
"I only have one thing to say. We’re on to Seattle," Belichick said, adapting the rallying cry he repeated, "We’re on to Cincinnati," after a loss at Kansas City dropped the Patriots to 2-2.
The Patriots (14-4) will face the defending champion Seahawks (14-4) for the NFL title on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. The stoic Belichick will match wits with the enthusiastic Pete Carroll, whom he replaced as Patriots coach 2000. The Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime in the NFC title game.
Brady threw three touchdown passes, LeGarrette Blount ran 30 times for 148 yards and three scores and the Patriots scored touchdowns on four straight possessions after leading just 17-7 at halftime.
"I know we’ve had some ups and downs this year," Brady said, "but right now we’re up, baby, and we’re going to try to stay up for one more game."
Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts have a long wait for their next game. The No. 1 draft choice in 2012 had the worst performance of his career and the fourth rout in his four games against the Patriots, all by at least three touchdowns. He completed 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
"It’s hard to find much good (in the season) fresh off this game," Luck said. "We had our sights set higher."
In his first season as a starter in 2001, Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win, starting a run of three championships in four years. Now he and Belichick have a chance for their first in 10 years.
The list of milestones is long:
—- Brady surpassed John Elway for most Super Bowls for a quarterback and tied defensive lineman Mike Lodish for most by any player.
—- Belichick tied Don Shula for most Super Bowls for a coach and broke a tie with Tom Landry for postseason win.
—- New England tied Dallas and Pittsburgh for most appearances in the big game with eight. Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards before being replaced by Jimmy Garoppolo with 3:20 left. Brady went to the sideline where he was embraced by Belichick. Moments earlier, while sitting on the bench, Brady was shown on the video board with soaked hair. He pumped his fist in the air 12 times then slapped hands with teammates.
One play after Luck threw an interception to Darrelle Revis late in the third quarter, Blount ran 13 yards for the touchdown that made it 38-7. One fan held up a sign: "No Luck In Our House"
"It’s a very disappointing loss," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "We’ll learn from this. We’ll grow from this."
Eight days after baffling Baltimore with a four-man offensive linemen formation, Belichick called a pass to left tackle Nate Solder that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown that made it 24-7 with just under five minutes gone in the third quarter.
"We’ve been practicing that for years," Solder said. "The stars were aligned."
The Patriots kept rolling with touchdowns on each of their next three series — a 5-yard pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski, and Blount’s runs of 13 and 2 yards.
"He made some great cuts in not good conditions," Belichick said of Blount. "He’s a tough guy to tackle."
All that added up to a shot at another championship for the Patriots, who lost Super Bowls to the New York Giants in the 2007 and 2011 seasons.
Turnovers led to two of the three touchdowns in the first half.
Josh Cribbs fumbled a punt after the Patriots went three-and-out on their first possession and
Darius Fleming recovered at the Colts 26. Six plays later, Blount scored on a 1-yard run.
The Patriots took a 14-0 lead with just over a minute left in the first quarter on Brady’s 1-yard pass to James Develin.
The Patriots were driving again before Brady was picked off by D’Qwell Jackson. Luck marched the Colts 93 yards to a 1-yard touchdown run by Zurlon Tipton with 4:54 left in the half.
Then the Colts defense came up with a big stand, forcing Brady into three straight incompletions from their 3. The Patriots settled for Stephen Gostkowski’s 21-yard field goal nine seconds before intermission.
And then the Patriots dominated. "I never thought we would go out like this," Colts safety Mike Adams said. "It definitely caught me off guard."
Notes: Brady passed Peyton Manning (6,800 yards) for most yards passing in the postseason with 7,017. … In four games against the Colts, Luck has thrown six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. … Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri set an NFL record with his 30th postseason game, one more than Jerry Rice, but missed a 51-yard field goal attempt. … The Patriots improved to 17-4 in home playoff games.