It wasn't pretty but it wound up being easy. The New England Patriots managed to once again defeat their old playoff foe and advance to the AFC Championship following an impressive 43-22 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The game served as the perfect exemplar for the Patriots season as a whole. This is a grittier team than past iterations, and an offense that doesn't wholly rely on Tom Brady being stellar. There were flashes from the All-Pro quarterback, but he was happy to take the back seat to LeGarrette Blount who finished with a team-record four touchdowns.
Blount's breakout four-touchdown performance eclipsed a Patriots playoff record held since 1997 by Curtis Martin. Long drives were routinely closed out by an impressive Patriots rushing game that finished with 235 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Andrew Luck threw four interceptions in the loss and began forcing passes when it became clear he needed to put the team on his back. There were plenty of impressive throws that kept the Colts in the game, but leaving the door open for a veteran team made it impossible to stay in the game when the Patriots began to score.
The Patriots wait for the winner of the Sunday divisional matchup to determine who they play, but it's unclear whether either the Broncos or Chargers can handle the Patriots rushing attack if they match their performance on Saturday.James Dator
With slightly more than 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, LeGarrette Blount broke open the game with a 73-yard run for a touchdown. It extended the lead to two touchdowns, which proved to be too much for a Colts offense that that was turning the ball over in equal number to its big plays.
There's just something about this team that is hard to put into words. From Stephen Gostkowski stepping in for an injured Ryan Allen at punter, to a team that has completely reinvented itself after December. The Patriots are going to the AFC Championship. And while we can continue to doubt them based on their perceived talent level, this team's will to win may ultimately prevail.
-- Pats Pulpit
The New England Patriots win means everything hinges on the Sunday divisional game between Denver and San Diego. A Broncos win would mean the Patriots travel to Denver next week, while a Chargers victory would send Philip Rivers to Foxboro.
New England beat Denver in 2013, but didn't face the Chargers this season. The last time they met was in 2011, which resulted in a narrow four point win for the Patriots.