The New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game 43-22 in a wet and rainy Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. The Colts fell behind less than two minutes into the game, but hung around into the fourth quarter, when the Patriots finally put them away. Unlike against Kansas City in the Wild Card round, the Colts were unable to stop the power running of the New England Patriots.
It was a total team performance from the Patriots. Big plays were made in the running game and in the passing game by the offense. On defense, the Patriots took the Colts’ running game and rendered it irrelevant, holding the Colts to 69 total rushing yards. The defense intercepted quarterback Andrew Luck four times and held the hottest quarterback in the NFL to a 53.0 quarterback rating.
In light of the strong performance on both sides of the ball (and this being the playoffs), there will be a game ball on offense and another one on defense, as both squads were strong in the game.
There was consideration for a third game ball on special teams for kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who stepped up to handle punting duties following Ryan Allen’s injury. In addition, his booming kickoffs helped pin the Colts deep in their own end. But the offensive and defensive winners truly carried their team on each side of the ball.
In the past decade it would be shocking to think of the New England Patriots’ offense running the ball 46 times and passing the ball only 25 times. This season, with tight end Aaron Hernandez released, tight end Rob Gronkowski recovering from surgery yet again, and the trio of rookie wide receivers that contributed earlier in the season all injured, the Patriots’ offense continues to evolve to fit the parts that are on the field.
Quarterback Tom Brady made his share of big plays, particularly finding wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman for big gains at times. But 13 completions for 198 yards is not the usual Tom Brady performance. Instead, Brady put aside any ego and ran —and even checked to—the plays that gave the team the best chance to win. Brady even contributed on special teams, serving as kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s holder on the final two extra points.
However, the big star was the Patriots’ running game. They racked up 46 carries for 234 yards and six rushing touchdowns. New England picked up 13 of their 23 first downs by running the football. Contrast that to Indianapolis, who had only three first downs on the ground (16 total)—one of which was an Andrew Luck scramble.
Leading the charge running the ball was the winner of the offensive game ball. He had a franchise playoff record: four rushing touchdowns. He ripped off a 73 yard touchdown run and pounded out 166 yards on the ground.
For his electrifying running and his record-setting numbers for touchdowns and rushing yards, the offensive cover32 New England Patriots Game Ball is awarded to running back LeGarrette Blount.
Cordarrelle Patterson is a very good wide receiver. The Minnesota Vikings traded up in the 2013 NFL draft for Patterson at the #29 overall pick and gave the New England Patriots second, third, fourth, and seventh round draft picks to get him. The Patriots turned that first round pick into linebacker Jamie Collins, cornerback Logan Ryan, wide receiver Josh Boyce, and a seventh round pick traded with running back Jeff Demps to Tampa Bay for running back LeGarrette Blount. As good as Patterson was in 2013, no one in New England is looking for a do-over for that trade.
LeGarrette Blount already earned the game ball on offense—and the Patriots had two other players in this trade playing well against Indianapolis. Cornerback Logan Ryan continued his strong play in pass coverage. Ryan replaced cornerback Kyle Arrington in the second quarter and helped put the clamps on wide receiver Griff Whalen, who had beaten Arrington twice early in the game. Ryan also helped in coverage on tight end Coby Fleener.
However, New England’s top draft pick, linebacker Jamie Collins, had his best game of the season Saturday night. Stepping into the starting linebacking role, Collins played every snap on defense. He was a force all over the field. The rookie linebacker had a sack, two quarterback hits, and two hurries on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Jamie Collins did not hesitate to stick his nose into the action in the running game with 6 tackles and 4 snaps. In addition, he was strong in pass coverage as he locked up tight end Coby Fleener in man coverage. With an interception and two forced incompletions on five passes thrown his way, Collins held Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to an 8.3 quarterback rating on plays he was involved in (per ProFootballFocus.com). Even on the two completions, Collins only allowed two yards after the catch and 12 yards total.
For his strong all-around outstanding performance on defense Saturday night, the defensive cover32 New England Patriots Game Ball is awarded to linebacker Jamie Collins.