FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Early in the week as they were preparing for another match-up with their most heated rival, Cory Redding made one thing clear.
“Those teams are those teams of the past,” said the Colts defensive end of the team’s previous battles with the Patriots. “This is a new team.”
That is true. The end of the Manning era brought quarterback Andrew Luck and a new cast of characters into a rivalry that has seen the team meet for 11 straight seasons. Even with quarterback Tom Brady still at the helm, the Patriots are much different from the teams that faced off in the playoffs in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
Yet the intensity of the past was evident at a filled Gillette Stadium no matter how hard or what direction the rain comes in on Saturday night in the team’s AFC Divisional Playoff game. People may have changed but meaning of the Colts and the Patriots playing in January certainly hasn’t.
But this new era of Colts kept up one of their recent traditions: Starting off slow then rally. But as even the team admitted at times this season, it finally caught up to them at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night. The Colts fell behind 14-0 quickly in the first quarter and got the lead to seven on a few occasions, but were never able to tie or get the lead in a 43-22 loss to New England.
Chuck Pagano’s second season ends with a 12-6 overall record, advancing farther than any Colts team has since 2009. Indianapolis is now 0-3 all-time in playoff games played in Foxborough.
Bill Belichick’s commitment to the run paid off the entire game as New England rushed for 234 yards with an average of 5.1 yards a carry with six touchdowns. The Patriots rushed 46 times with Tom Brady making a completion on 13 of the other 25 plays for 198 yards.
Trailing right from the start, Andrew Luck was forced to throw early and often and he completed 20-of-41 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns, but four interceptions proved costly in his second postseason loss.
On the game’s third play, Andrew Luck’s pass intended for LaVon Brazill was intercepted by Alfonzo Dennard who took it into the endzone but stepped out at the two-yard line. Legarrette Blount finished off the drive on the next play with a touchdown to make it 7-0.
Tom Brady led the Patriots down the field on their next possession which covered 74 yards in ten plays. Blount finished it off with another two-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.
Luck got the Colts going on a drive fueled by a pair of third-down conversions. After a long completion to Griff Whalen into Patriots territory, Luck went deep for Lavon Brazill who reeled in a 38-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7.
In the second quarter the Patriots responded again with a balanced drive of 75 yards. Fueled by a 27-yard tackle-breaking reception by receiver Julian Edleman, New England got on the board with another short touchdown by Blount to push the lead to 21-7.
Adam Vinatieri got the Colts a little closer later in the second quarter when he salvaged a 62-yard drive with a 36-yard field goal to make it 21-10. The Colts got two points closer when the a snap on a punt sailed over the Patriots Ryan Allen’s head and after a scramble eventually went out of the Colts endzone for the safety.
Indianapolis couldn’t get a score before the half but the got on the board early in the second half to cut into the New England lead. A 40-yard pass from Luck to T.Y. Hilton led to a 21-yard field goal by Vinatieri to make it 21-15.
New England appeared to be ready to grab the momentum later in the third quarter when Stevan Ridley completed an 88-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion pushed the Patriots lead to 29-15. But back came the Colts again as Luck who completed a pair of 35-yard passes to Hilton and Brazill on the following drive, the last of which scored a touchdown and cut the New England lead back down to seven.
Blount then made his biggest play of the game at that moment, finding a hole in the Colts defense and racing away for a 73-yard touchdown make it 36-22 New England.