Patriots Live Blog: Rob Gronkowski’s Three Touchdowns Pace Patriots to 31-24 Victory Against Colts

Patriots Live Blog: Rob Gronkowski's Three Touchdowns Pace Patriots to 31-24 Victory Against Colts

Final, Patriots 31-24: Deion Branch recovered the onside kick to seal a strange victory. The Patriots improved to 9-3, and regardless of what happens throughout the rest of the day, the Patriots will have an opportunity to win the division next week. The outcome of the Jets' and Bills' games Sunday will determine how much help the Patriots will need next week.

Plenty more coverage to follow on NESN.com.

Fourth quarter, 0:36, Patriots 31-24: The dozens of fans remaining at Gillette are booing the Patriots' defense right now after Pierre Garcon caught his second touchdown pass of the quarter and beat Devin McCourty in the process. You know, for all of the times everyone has wondered what took Bill Belichick so long to put in the backups, this might be the one time he did it too soon because the prevent-style defense has given up the two quickest touchdowns of the Colts' afternoon.

Fourth quarter, 2:10, Patriots 31-17: The Patriots recovered two onside kicks there, the first of which was negated by an offsides by Gary Guyton, which isn't a great thing for a guy hurting for playing time. Niko Koutouvides recovered the first one, and Rob Gronkowski hauled in the one that counted.

So, the Patriots will beat the Colts to improve to 9-3. If the Jets fall Sunday to the Redskins (they're tied in the fourth quarter) and the Bills don't come back against the Titans, the Patriots can win the AFC East title next week with a victory against the Redskins.

Fourth quarter, 2:12, Patriots 31-17: The possibility for a miracle still exists, I guess, after Dan Orlovsky hit Pierre Garcon for a 33-yard touchdown. Long touchdowns are not really what you're looking for at this point in the game.

Fourth quarter, 7:11, Patriots 31-10: Oh wow, Jerod Mayo just had an amazing effort to dive and pick off the first pass of his career. That was some big-time stuff right there. Mayo was hanging in the zone and looked off-balance as he dove to catch a bullet for Austin Collie crossing behind him.

Pretty amazing that it took this long for Mayo to get an interception. Shows you that stats can be fluky sometimes.

Fourth quarter, 8:57, Patriots 31-10: The Patriots went three-and-out, and the Colts take over at their own 24. Now, the Patriots have blown some leads in the past to the Colts, but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say it's not happening again because you-know-who isn't playing. Oh, and the Colts' two scoring drives have amassed 19 minutes. It might take them until January to get this game tied.

Fourth quarter, 10:24, Patriots 31-10: Rob Gronkowski might not have the NFL record for most receiving touchdowns in a single season for a tight end, but he's the first tight end to ever score 14 touchdowns in a single season, according to the stats on pro-football-reference.com. So, Gronkowski has that record. He'll get the more celebrated one, I guess, sometime later.

Oh, and Donald Brown just scored a five-yard touchdown. More garbage-time points against the Patriots' defense.

Third quarter, 1:48, Patriots 31-3: There has been a scoring change, and Rob Gronkowski's record has been taken away. The third touchdown was ruled as a lateral, so it was a rushing touchdown. So much for the fanfare. But seriously, that scorekeeper might want to sneak out of the building in a costume later.

Third quarter, 4:06, Patriots 31-3: The PA highlighted Rob Gronkowski's record, and he got a huge ovation from the crowd, as well as a long line of congratulations from his teammates.

Also interesting to note, Gronkowski set the record just moments after former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan lost his NFL record of 12 rushing touchdowns in a single season from a quarterback. Panthers rookie Cam Newton just tied Grogan's mark with his second score of the day.

I caught up with Grogan on Friday to get his thoughts on Newton, and you can read them here.

Third quarter, 4:13, Patriots 31-3: And there's the record. Rob Gronkowski caught a two-yard touchdown pass on a well-designed screen play to the right side. The Patriots had three receivers lined up to the right side in a triangle formation, and Gronkowski motioned from tight left to the right. Tom Brady quickly threw it to Gronkowski, and the blockers were in place. The Colts had no chance because they weren't moving before the snap. I'd like to say I have no idea what they're doing, but as I kind of noted earlier, they look like a team that just fired their defensive coordinator. There's no direction on that side of the ball.

Third quarter, 8:12, Patriots 24-3: Just when the Colts started to make a push on the ground, Matthew Slater forced a fumble that was recovered by Kyle Arrington, who collects his eighth turnover of the season (seven interceptions). Pretty good stuff from Slater there, especially considering this defensive start came out of nowhere.

Third quarter, 12:16, Patriots 24-3: Rob Gronkowski scored his second touchdown of the game after a horrendously blown coverage. He ran up the right seam and was never touched for a 26-yard score.

That's Gronkowski's 13th touchdown of the season, which ties the NFL's single-season record for tight ends. I've got a hunch that he'll break that record, and it might even happen in this game.

By the way, the Colts' defense is atrocious. Their soft zone look is so bad that it's almost insulting to the game of football. And they fired their defensive coordinator Tuesday, too. Wes Welker caught four passes on the first five plays of that drive just by running a simple route and squatting in the soft zone in front of the linebackers. It took all of those plays — not to mention his six catches in the first half — for the Colts to bring a safety up to the line. And two plays after that, they forgot about Gronkowski in a single-high zone. Gross.

Third quarter, 14:56, Patriots 17-3: Julian Edelman returned the second-half kickoff to the New England 23, and the Pats are back at it. I like seeing Edelman returning kickoffs. I think he adds more to the unit than the other guys they've tried this season.

Halftime, Patriots 17-3: Yup, a knee. There were even some boos from the crowd after that. The Colts are boring visiting fans, too.

Forgot to mention, Tom Brady tried to hit Chad Ochocinco down the left sideline during the previous drive, and the crowd got really loud as he started to haul in the ball, which bounced away when he got hit. It's amazing how much love he's gotten from the fans this season at the stadium, especially considering how many people ask me when the Patriots are going to finally cut him. Such an interesting dynamic that Ochocinco has caused in New England.

Anyway, after a very slow, boring, sluggish start to this game, the Patriots have picked it up, and they can kick the Colts in the throat with another score to start the third quarter.

Second quarter, 0:13, Patriots 17-3: BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored from a yard out to double the New England lead and give the Patriots two touchdowns in the last three minutes of the half. With how conservatively the Colts have played on offense, I fully expect them to take a knee here.

Colts defensive back Jerraud Powers went to the locker room after getting hurt while trying to defend an incompletion to Aaron Hernandez in the end zone, taking away another player from that secondary. (Update: Powers is questionable to return with an elbow injury.)

The Patriots have been so much more efficient with a faster pace late in the half. I don't know why it took them so long to get to it, but maybe they wanted to try some different things earlier in the game. Hey, if there's ever a game to experiment some stuff, this would be it.

Second quarter, 1:38, Patriots 10-3: The Colts' rushing attack has been abysmal, running 14 times for 32 yards and failing on third-and-14 there. Julian Edelman returned the punt to the New England 36 to give the offense a big possession before the half. Edelman originally fumbled the punt, and he was met by special teams coordinator Scott O'Brien at the sideline. O'Brien wasn't yelling, but I think I can predict the message that was conveyed.

Second quarter, 2:57, Patriots 10-3: The Patriots needed to get into the no-huddle to spark themselves, and that's how they started out on that drive. There were three big plays — first, Chad Ochocinco caught a 12-yard pass on third down and drew a standing ovation from the home crowd. Later, Tom Brady slid to his left and moved up in the pocket to get out of the way of a four-man rush with a stunt that backed up the offensive line, and he hit Wes Welker for 16 yards on third-and-15. And finally, Brady hit a wide-open Rob Gronkowski for an 11-yard touchdown.

Gronkowski then spiked the ball about five yards into the end zone. The ball landed at the 26, so it traveled 31 yards. Thirty-one yards.

Second quarter, 9:38, 3-3: Nate Jones, who has been on the team for four days, broke up Dan Orlovsky's third-down pass to force a punt, and the Pats take over at their own 14. I shouldn't be shocked with how much Jones is playing, but I think I am. What a strange day for personnel movement.

Second quarter, 11:04, 3-3: I know it's an earlier start than the Patriots have gotten used to, but they've got to wake up or things could get weird here. The offense looked flat and off balance on that series. Tom Brady hit Wes Welker a couple times but couldn't connect with a well-covered Deion Branch on a deep throw on third-and-2. After Joe Lefeged's nifty punt return, the Colts have the ball at their 32.

Big injury to report: Linebacker Pat Angerer, the NFL's leading tackler, is questionable to return after suffering a knee injury.

Second quarter, 14:11, 3-3: Rob Ninkovich had the second third-down sack of the day for the Patriots' defense, and Adam Vinatieri capped the 19 — yup, 19 — play drive with a 31-yard field goal. And he was booed loudly by the crowd here. Bizarre, as I alluded to before, that Peyton Manning is signing autographs and Vinatieri is getting booed at this place within a two-hour time frame. Maybe it's different because Manning isn't playing and Vinatieri got booed during the actual game, but still.

The Colts converted three third downs on that drive and kept the ball for more than 10 minutes. But their failed third down wasn't helped by Quinn Ojinnaka's false start prior to Ninkovich's sack. Ojinnaka played for New England last season.

End of first quarter, Patriots 3-0: This has been a terrific drive for the Colts, who have a first-and-goal from the 1 and have already erased nine and a half minutes with the possession.

One thing to note: The Patriots have lined up with 3-3-5 personnel, but it's a 4-3 scheme. Rob Ninkovich has been a defensive on his reps, and it shows when running backs and tight ends run routes on his side of the field and he hasn't attempted to cover them. If it was a 3-4 scheme, Ninkovich would have different assignments, but he's not reading and reacting. It's clear his assignment has been to get into the backfield, and he's been doing it well.

First quarter, 9:30, Patriots 3-0: Stephen Gostkowski is taking advantage of the wind and has crushed two kickoffs to the back corner of the end zone for a pair of touchbacks.

First quarter, 9:30, Patriots 3-0: Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 39-yard field goal to give the Pats the lead. Tom Brady scrambled on third down but couldn't dive for a first down. He had Rob Gronkowski open a few yards in front of him but chose to tuck it an run, and he was credited with a sack.

First quarter, 10:06, 0-0: Kevin Faulk was charged with a fumble there, but it's been challenged by Bill Belichick. It looks like the Patriots will keep possession based on the video board replays. (Update: The Patriots won the challenge, and they've got a third-and-2 at the Indy 21.)

First quarter, 11:30, 0-0: To keep the surprises going, Nick McDonald is starting at center. I kind of thought Ryan Wendell was in Bill Belichick's doghouse, and this probably proves it.

First quarter, 12:43, 0-0: The Colts got one first down, but Vince Wilfork easily beat Ryan Diem for a third-down sack. The Pats take over near midfield after Julian Edelman's punt return.

First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: Devin McCourty is starting at left cornerback, while Niko Koutouvides (linebacker), Nate Jones (safety) and Matthew Slater (safety) are starting on defense. Unbelievable.

1:01 p.m.: The Colts called tails, won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Probably the wise choice to get an early crack at momentum. It's time for the Dan Orlovsky show.

12:54 p.m.: The Patriots have taken the field, and the crowd is still very much filing into the stadium, which looks bare right now. It's still mostly cloudy here, too.

This is obviously nothing new, but it's still crazy to hear the press box PA guy say Dan Orlovsky is starting in place of Peyton Manning.

12:45 p.m.: As promised, here are some more details on the inactive list.

12:03 p.m.: There was an interesting scene about a half hour ago when Colts quarterback Peyton Manning spent a while signing autographs for fans, many of whom were wearing Patriots gear. I took a quick poll on Twitter, and the majority of Patriots fans had no problem with that, saying they have enough respect for Manning and the rivalry to want his autograph. Others pointed out it's a nice investment, too. Of course, those who didn't want Manning's autograph had the funnier responses.

11:51 a.m.: Devin McCourty is back in the lineup after missing two games with a shoulder injury, but safety Patrick Chung is surprisingly inactive after it looked like he had a pretty good pregame workout.

Brandon Spikes, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Dane Fletcher, Shane Vereen and Ryan Mallett are also inactive. More details to follow.

11:14 a.m.: Patrick Chung is working out the foot with the medical staff right now, which is at least a good sign for his improvement. Chung was a game-time decision against the Jets, but he was ruled out earlier for the last two games. This shows he's a game-time decision for Sunday. He's moving a lot better than he did prior to that Jets game, that's for sure.

11:07 a.m.: Ryan Wendell, who started last week at center, is stretching on the field, and he's not being monitored by the medical staff, which is a good sign for his availability. However, with the Nick McDonald activation, I now wonder if Dan Connolly (groin) will be out for this game. The inactive list is due in 20 minutes, so we'll know soon.

10:31 a.m.: Running back Danny Woodhead is loosening up with the training staff right now. He's questionable with an ab injury, so this is an indication he's a game-time decision.

10:10 a.m.: Here's the view from the Gillette Stadium press box about three hours before the Patriots will take on the Colts. It was a relatively quiet scene on Route 1 and in the parking lots when I was walking in, which probably has more to do with the earlier kickoff than the Patriots' boring opponent. Things usually pick up about two to three hours before the 1 p.m. games, and they start closer to four hours earlier than the 4 p.m. kickoff.

It's about 45 degrees outside, and there's a heavy amount of clouds over the stadium, but there were some sunny spots on the ride down. If the clouds can kick rocks, it should warm up pretty nicely here.

8 a.m. ET: While everyone on the football planet expects the Patriots to thoroughly dismantle their rival Colts on Sunday, New England head coach Bill Belichick has worked diligently to make sure his team doesn't take the winless, Peyton Manning-less Colts lightly.

Belichick has certainly sold the point throughout the week, both to the media and his team, and his players can put that message on display at 1 p.m. when the game kicks off.

Stay with NESN.com's live blog throughout the day, as we'll keep you covered from wall to wall at Gillette Stadium.

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