Different Colts but same story for Patriots
FOXBOROUGH — For the sixth time in the blessed football union of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick the Patriots are playing for the seven pounds of sterling silver that separate good teams from immortal ones, the Lombardi Trophy.
The Patriots are going to Super Bowl XLIX and are one game away from delivering a long-awaited fourth Lombardi Trophy and winning their first Super Bowl since the 2004 season.
The Patriots destroyed the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, on a sodden Sunday at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship game. The deluge was on the field and on the scoreboard. The rain didn’t let up and neither did the Patriots, who advanced to their sixth Roman Numeral Rumble since 2001.
If you believe in symmetry, the Patriots returning to Glendale, Ariz., is poetic. It’s where they lost a perfect season and let a fourth championship slip out of their grasp in Super Bowl XLII seven years ago against the New York Giants.
“I know we’ve had some ups and downs this year, but right now we’re up, baby! And we’re going to try to stay up for one more game,” said Brady, who is the first quarterback to reach six Super Bowls.
Redemption in the Desert won’t be easy. A much tougher opponent than the callow Colts is on the agenda.
Waiting for the Patriots is old friend Pete Carroll and the defending Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks, who staged a comeback for the ages to defeat the Green Bay Packers, 28-22, in overtime in the NFC Championship game.
Pumped and Jacked Carroll, who was derided and dismissed when he was fired by the Patriots following the 1999 season, will take on Belichick in a clash of coaches with polar opposite personalities and the same season-ending goal.
Carroll’s Seahawks are trying to become the first team since the 2004 Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl winners.
“I don’t think of us stopping them,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “I think of us trying to win our fourth Super Bowl. They have a pretty good coach.”
Belichick joined Don Shula as the only coaches to guide teams to six Super Bowls.
The real AFC Championship game was Jan. 10, when the Patriots squeaked out a 35-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
The Colts are like those replica buildings you find on movie sets. From the outside they look authentic with Andrew Luck at quarterback, but inside they’re an unfinished empty shell.
The Patriots spent the second half determining who and how they wanted to score their touchdowns. They gave one out to left tackle Nate Solder.
A week after they used a double pass to fool the Ravens, the Patriots pulled more tricks out of their playbook.
On the first drive of the second half, the Patriots had third and 1 at the 16. They lined up Solder, a former college tight end, as a tackle eligible. Brady (23 of 35 for 226 yards with three touchdowns and one interception) hit Solder with a pass and he rumbled into the end zone to give the Patriots a 24-7 lead with 10:03 left in the third quarter.
His Hoodiness and his acolytes once again proved they’re the smartest kids in the NFL coaching class.
After Rob Gronkowski’s obligatory TD catch, Darrelle Revis intercepted Luck at the Indianapolis 43 and returned it 30 yards. LaGarrette Blount dragged two Colts defenders into the end zone for a 13-yard score.
It was 38-7, and we’re on to Seattle and Super Bowl XLIX.
Blount finished with 148 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries, as once again the Patriots left tread marks all over the Colts’ defense, rushing for 177 yards on 40 attempts.
The Patriots led, 17-7, at the half. That served as pretext that this was a competitive contest.
It was Nixon-McGovern from the get-go.
The Colts were members of the AFC East before NFL realignment in 2002. They played like they were honorary path-of-least-resistance division members.
In four games against the Patriots, the Chuck Pagano/Luck Colts have allowed 59, 43, 42, and 45 points. They’ve lost by an average of 29 points.
Luck’s time will come, but it wasn’t this night. The Next Big Thing was just 12 of 33 for 126 yards and two interceptions. In four career games against the Patriots, he has 10 interceptions and a fumble.
Early on, the Colts were complicit in their own demise.
The Patriots punted on their first possession. Colts punt returner Josh Cribbs looked into the dark, soggy winter sky and lost the football. It doinked off his facemask and right into the waiting arms of Patriots linebacker Darius Fleming. Six plays later, Blount, who ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns in last season’s playoff drubbing of the Colts, plowed in from a yard out to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead.
Automatic Adam Vinatieri, the NFL career leader in postseason field goals, then sprayed a 51-yarder wide right. The Patriots took the ball and marched right into the Indy end zone. Brady hit fullback James Develin with a 1-yard touchdown pass to put the Patriots up with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
Patriots fans were feverishly checking flights and hotel availability in the Phoenix area.
From a Monday night massacre at the hands of the Chiefs in September to a Sunday night date in the Super Bowl in February, these Patriots have rebounded and rededicated themselves to return to the AFC throne.
“We’ve got a good team. We’ve worked hard to get to this point,” said Brady. “It’s hard to compare year to year. I think every situation is different. So, we’ve had a lot of good teams in the past. This one is going to have to win a very important game to kind of leave our legacy.”