Last week at home against the Chiefs, Andrew Luck engineered the second-greatest comeback in NFL playoff history, guiding the Colts to an improbable 45-44 victory. Unfortunately his reward was a ticket to Foxboro, MA and a faceoff with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for a spot in the AFC Championship Game. The New England Patriots’ Brady and Belichick had two weeks to prepare for this game, to analyze the Colts’ defense, and to prepare a very un-Brady like game plan. Things didn’t start well for Luck who was intercepted on the Colts 1st possession giving the Patriots the ball and 1st and Goal on the 2 yard line. One play later the Patriots took a 7 point lead which is the same amount they led the Colts by 45 minutes later. The re-cap headlines of the day speak of the Patriots (trampling / crushing / hammering / and pounding) the Colts. The actual game unfolded much differently than any of these headlines.
The Patriots respected the ability of Luck to drive the Colts down the field to score quickly and had no intention of getting in a Brady/Luck shootout situation. The Patriots came out running the ball, when it worked they ran some more, when it didn’t they ran some more. By the end of the game they had a 46/25 run-pass ratio and had gained 234 yards on the ground vs 185 in the air. It was a great gameplan that worked slowly but surely as intended but also one that kept the Patriot fans on the edge of their seats into the 4th quarter.
Indianapolis trailed the Patriots, 29-22, entering the final quarter of the game and Andrew Luck was ready to go to work. We had already seen Luck drive 80 yards in 3 plays using slightly over a minute to score in the 3rd quarter and a 7 point lead wasn’t of any real comfort to the faithful at Gillette Stadium. That Colts drive stalled at their own 24 and the Patriots took possession on their 27 yards line and once again turned to the run. Legarrette Blount broke free and scampered 73 yards for a touchdown on the opening play of the drive giving the Patriots a 14 point lead with 13 minutes to play. Another interception of Luck by Jamie Collins this time gave the Patriots the ball on the Colts 18 and the Patriots found the endzone again opening a 21 point lead with 11 minutes to play. Finally the Stadium relaxed and began watching the clock as much as the game.
This isn’t the kind of game Patriot fans have grown accustomed to in the Brady era but the team’s ability to adapt is leaving them with a new confidence as the elimination rounds of the playoffs move forward. At 4pm today the Denver Broncos host the San Diego Chargers which will determine who and where they patriots play next week. A Denver win sends the Patriots out west while A Charger win buys them a ticket to Foxboro.