New England Patriots Game Recap: On to the AFC Championship Game

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Jan 11, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a pass against the New England Patriots in the second half during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots received the second half kickoff and promptly went three-and-out to start the half and kicker Stephen Gostkowski was forced to punt away to the Colts replacing injured punter Ryan Allen.  Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui almost gave away a short pass but made a nice play to catch the ball he tipped in the air and set-up a third down and short. Another failed conversion ended another drive in frustration for New England after a strong start to the game.

 

Again, the Colts got the ball and Andrew Luck’s legs made a big play getting away from pressure and finding T.Y. Hilton for 40 yards as he got behind cornerback Aqib Talib who was caught looking back at the quarterback. A quick yarder down the sideline set up the Colts at the four yard line and a first-and-goal. Two runs by the Colts had safety Steve Gregory up in the backfield to make the stop. On third and goal rookie linebacker Jamie Collins locked up tight end Coby Fleener on the fade and prevented the completion. It was a huge stop to hold Indianapolis to three points and make it 21-15 New England early in the third quarter.

 

The Patriots finally got aggressive as Brady found wide receiver Danny Amendola deep for 53 yards on play action. After a run and incompletion, Tom Brady made a play with his feet as he escaped pressure and got outside the pocket. He found wide receiver Julien Edelman for eight yards and huge first down conversion.  On second down, Brady again escaped pressure from defensive end Robert Mathis and escaped to throw the ball away and not take the sack. On third and eight Brady lobbed the ball down the right sideline to Julien Edelman and Colts backup cornerback Josh Gordy locked up Edelman for the pass interference penalty. It set up New England with a first and goal at the five.

 

After a throwaway and a run up the middle, the Patriots faced third and goal from the three yard line and running back Stevan Ridley pounded into the end zone on the right side of the defense behind tackle Marcus Cannon and guard Dan Connolly. On the two point conversion (punter and holder Ryan Allen out injured) Ridley went to the left side behind tackle Nate Solder and guard Logan Mankins. A late hit after the conversion by former Patriot cornerback Darius Butler added a little extra intensity as the Patriots went up two touchdowns again by a score of 29 to 15.

 

The Patriots offense finally showed some much needed urgency on that drive as they got aggressive throwing the ball downfield. Even the pass to running back Shane Vereen down the right sideline that quarterback Tom Brady overthrew was an aggressive play call. The Patriots threw twice on first down on the drive and Brady moved in the pocket to extend the play twice rather than just taking the sack. For running back Stevan Ridley, it was a vote of confidence being on the field for a key drive.

 

The Colts started off running Trent Richardson wide for a loss as rookie linebacker Jamie Collins made the tackle from the ground.  Unfortunately, on second down Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for 46 yards and then from 35 yards out he hit LaVon Brazill as the Patriots defense dropped into a weak zone and let the Colts make a quick strike touchdown. Just like last week against Kansas City, the Colts took advantage of a defensive coordinator getting too conservative in the calls and burnt the opponent with deep passes. After playing a tight man coverage and making stops early, the defense took their foot off the pedal and let the Colts right back in the game as it was now 29 to 22 with five minutes to play in the third quarter.

 

The Patriots came back with LeGarrette Blount in the backfield and he rumbled for seven yards on first down. But that was it. Going back to the overly conservative game plan, the Patriots ran again on second down and got stuffed by the Colts forcing a third down again. Brady could not convert on third down again and forced another punt by kicker Stephen Gostkowski. It was another wasted drive by the Patriots as again offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels stopped being aggressive and just ran the ball on first and second down.

 

Taking over on the thirty, it was rookie Jamie Collins running through the line to sack quarterback Andrew Luck for the first time. On third and sixteen Luck tried to find wide receiver Griff Whelan who was matched up with Logan Ryan when he slipped in his cut and the pass sailed incomplete.  Despite Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s expressive calls for a pass interference penalty, the Colts had to punt it back to the Patriots.

 

With two minutes to play in the third quarter wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins took a big hit and dropped a pass over a middle after a big hit by safety Antoine Bethea. Passing on first down and running on second down set up a third and one that the Patriots failed to convert. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels again made a questionable call and handed off to fullback James Develin. Develin, with all of four carries on the season, amazingly failed to convert: another three-and-out and punt closed out the third quarter; another drive by New England hamstrung by poor play calling.

 

Colts running back Donald Brown converted a quick first down on two runs. A second and nine, Luck tried to scramble from pressure by defensive end Rob Ninkovich and went down when he tripped over (or was tripped by and the penalty was not called) defensive tackle Joe Vellano. Luck tried to hit wide receiver LaVon Brazill deep down the right sideline on third and ten but tight coverage by cornerback Alfonzo Dennard stalled the drive and forced a punt.

 

Up by seven in the fourth quarter and just over 13 minutes to play, the Patriots offense finally got a big play in the running game as LeGarrette Blount broke a big play. Left guard Logan Mankins was pulling to the right to open the hole and right tackle Marcus Cannon had a strong seal and Blount went 73 yards for a touchdown to put the Patriots up 36 to 22.  The Patriots were in the two tight end set and along with Mankins it was Michael Hoomanawanui who had a key block opening the lane for Blount to take off and outrun the Colts defense.

 

Needing an answer, Luck tried to force the ball over the middle and rookie Jamie Collins dropped back deep in front of tight end Coby Fleener and picked off the pass and brought it back twenty yards to the Indianapolis 18 yard line. The Patriots threw the ball on first and second down and were fortunate to avoid a sack and interception. However, on third and ten Brady found former Colt Austin Collie sitting in the middle of the zone in the middle of the field for 15 yards and a first and goal at the three yard line.  Two strong runs by Stevan Ridley punched it in to the end zone and what was a close game was suddenly a 43 to 22 game as New England went up three touchdowns with just over 11 minutes to play in the game.

 

The Colts now down three touchdowns have to get into a quick strike mentality. A quick pass got nine yards to Coby Fleener but back-to-back incompletions set up a fourth and one at their own 29 yard line. Inexplicably, the Colts punted away to New England. It was an odd choice to be so conservative and punt, but the Patriots gladly took the ball back. After two runs by LeGarrette Blount, Tom Brady converted a third and three with a strike to Danny Amendola and keep the clock running.

 

With the Colts keying on the run, Brady again went to the air on second down as he found Julien Edelman to make it third and one and let running back LeGarrette Blount convert the third and short.  The Patriots got a big gain from Blount for 30 yards and then got a ten yard rush from Stevan Ridley.  From there it was running the clock down as far as they could then after a strip sack by Robert Mathis (too little too late) that Logan Mankins fell on, the Patriots recovered and then punted away to let the Colts take over with 2:34 to play and down 43 to 22.

With the Patriots pass rushers teeing off on Luck, the Colts tried to manage a drive to score and make it a bit more respectable, but by then it was too little, too late and then cornerback Alfonzo Dennard ended the pain by making another interception to close out the game.

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