Sunday, January 12, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Remember when this game was close? That was the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the New England Patriots seemingly clinging to a 29-22 lead as the Indianapolis Colts clawed their way back into the game.
It was all downhill for the Colts from there, as the Patriots scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to give themselves a 21-point lead that they would not relinquish, as they went on to win 43-22 in a game that was a bit closer than the final score indicates.
Now that the Patriots have advanced to the AFC Championship Game -- their third in as many years -- it's time to look back on the Patriots' winners and losers from the game.
LeGarrette Blount: Blount got off to a great start in his first postseason game, with three touchdown carries in the first half alone. His fourth touchdown carry -- a 73-yarder in the fourth quarter -- set a new Patriots single-game record, and his 166 rushing yards tied a Patriots postseason record. If the Patriots are going to make a deep run in the playoffs, they would love to get more production like that from Blount.
Alfonzo Dennard: Set the tone with an early interception of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, returning it down to the two-yard line. Also had a pair of pass-break-ups in the first half. He was on the wrong end of a 38-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver LaVon Brazill, but Dennard was in position on the play, and was otherwise solid in coverage and delivered big plays.
Jamie Collins: With linebacker Brandon Spikes out of the lineup, Collins' performance was a point of focus, and he delivered in an increased role. He was in coverage on Colts tight end Coby Fleener and held his own on a throw down the sideline and another in the end zone. He had a key sack on second down in the third quarter, and had pressure on one of Luck's two interceptions. He capped off his big game with an interception of Luck in the fourth quarter, returning it 20 yards and setting the Patriots up in the red zone.
Stephen Gostkowski: Things could have spiraled out of control when punter Ryan Allen was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury, but Gostkowski came in and punted incredibly well in relief duty, with five punts and a 41.8 net average, including two punts downed inside the 20-yard line and just one that went for a touchback. The Patriots should be hopeful that they don't have to count on Gostkowski's leg for more than one job, but he really saved the Patriots a lot of grief with his performance in that role.
Danny Aiken: Being a long snapper is tough business because your good plays will go unnoticed and your bad plays will get magnified. Aiken botched a long snap on a punt that went over punter Allen's head and resulted in a safety.
Kyle Arrington: Was on the wrong end of a pair of big receptions on third downs in the first quarter, both in coverage of Colts receiver Griff Whalen. Arrington was not spotted on the field very much in the second half.