FINAL — Patriots 45, Colts 7: The Patriots are heading to Super Bowl XLIX.
There never was much doubt in this one, as New England opened up a 7-0 lead and never looked back en route to a dominating performance in torrential downpours and swirling winds at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots will head for warmer weather when they take on the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 1.
Fourth quarter, 2:00, Patriots 45-7: Jimmy Garoppolo enters the game for Brady, who finishes the day completing 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Jimmy G didn’t get much action, as the Pats ran the ball three times and punted.
Fourth quarter, 3:42, Patriots 45-7: This crowd is fired up.
The Colts go three-and-out, and the fans braving the rain shower their quarterback in a “Brady” chant.
Fourth quarter, 5:45, Patriots 45-7: Jonas Gray has entered the game.
The former Colt killer finally sees some action, as the Gillette faithful busts out an “Arizona” chant. The Patriots’ drive ends in a punt, but this game is in the books.
Fourth quarter, 7:24, Patriots 45-7: The Patriots’ defense is putting in a performance for the ages.
The Colts moved the ball past midfield on the ensuing drive, but Jamie Collins jumped an out route to intercept Andrew Luck and raced 25 yards down the sideline.
Fourth quarter, 10:05, Patriots 45-7: To put it Blountly, this game is getting out of hand.
New England’s 11-play, 40-yard drive is capped by a 2-yard rushing TD by Blount (who else?). Blount now has seven postseason touchdowns, tied with David Givens for the most in Patriots history.
Fourth quarter, 15:00, Patriots 38-7: The Patriots forced another punt, and Edelman brought it back to the Colts’ 40-yard line. This one is o-ver.
The Gillette Stadium crowd is singing CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” in unison.
Third quarter, 2:08, Patriots 38-7: Dagger.
Darrelle Revis just picked off Andrew Luck and returned it to the Colts’ 13-yard line.
Oh, and LeGarrette Blount just scored again — 13-yarder.
Third quarter, 3:19, Patriots 31-7: The Patriots’ foot remains on the gas pedal.
The Patriots just drove 62 yards for another score, mixing in eligible and ineligible plays and players. The rest of the NFL is playing checkers, and Belichick is playing checkers with chess pieces.
Brady hit Gronkowski for the TD.
Third quarter, 8:55, Patriots 24-7: The Patriots are on fire right now. They just forced a three-and-out by the Colts, and they have the ball back on their 38-yard line after a fair catch by Danny Amendola.
Kyle Arrington deserves a boatload of praise. He has allowed just one catch for 36 yards to T.Y. Hilton. Arrington had great coverage on Hilton on the deep completion, but he just barely whiffed on the pass breakup.
Third quarter, 10:03, Patriots 24-7: The Patriots came out of the second half on fire and scored while draining five minutes off the clock.
Brady’s 16-yard touchdown pass went to an eligible Nate Solder — yes Nate Solder. He began his college career as a tight end at Colorado.
Third quarter, 14:54, Patriots 17-7: We’re back. The Patriots have the ball at their 13-yard line.
Halftime, Patriots 17-7: Luck kneeled on the ball, and the Patriots take a 10-point lead into the half.
Second quarter, 0:09, Patriots 17-7: The Patriots successfully burned a ton of clock and added three points on a field goal, but they also looked terrible inside the red zone, failing to score a touchdown on many opportunities.
The Patriots have 20 carries for 93 yards. Brady is 11-of-21 passing for 95 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Andrew Luck is 7 of 19 for 89 yards.
Second quarter, 4:54, Patriots 14-7: The Patriots’ ugly second quarter continued, as they just allowed the Colts to go 93 yards down the field for the score.
It appeared that tight end Coby Fleener might have fumbled the ball into the Patriots’ end zone at the end of the Colts’ drive, and Belichick had the challenge flag in his hand. The Colts ran the ball for a touchdown before the Patriots could challenge, call a timeout or complete their substitution, resulting in a 12 men on the field penalty as defensive tackle Joe Vellano was stuck in limbo.
Penalties by Vince Wilfork (unnecessary roughness) and Jamie Collins (illegal contact) helped extend that drive for the Colts.
Second quarter, 9:11, Patriots 14-0: Well, that drive didn’t go as the Patriots planned. Tom Brady was just picked off on a throw into double coverage to Gronkowski. The Colts have the ball at their own 7-yard line.
Second quarter, 10:02, Patriots 14-0: Julian Edelman disappeared to the locker room after a first-down reception on third down. He has a hip injury, and his return is questionable.
The Patriots are left with two pure wideouts: Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell.
Second quarter, 14:44, Patriots 14-0: The Patriots allowed only one first down as they continue to control the Colts through the air. The Patriots have the ball on their own 30.
Second quarter, 15:00, Patriots 14-0: The Patriots are electing to use four cornerbacks and one safety rather than three corners and two safeties in nickel. Logan Ryan replaces Patrick Chung, and Brandon Browner is playing in the box with his hands on his knees.
First quarter, 1:20, Patriots 14-0: The Patriots just got off to a hot start. They were pretty terrible at that during the second half of the season.
James Develin scored from 2 yards out. He was denied at first, then fought through past the goal line on a second effort.
The Patriots ran one play with four offensive linemen during that series. Brady also completed a long pass to running back Shane Vereen, who did a tremendous job of fighting through linebacker Jerrell Freeman for teh catch.
First quarter, 4:50, Patriots 7-0: Adam Vinatieri just missed a 51-yard field goal attempt, wide right.
That’s a big deal in itself, but the biggest storyline of that last series was Darrelle Revis came off the field for four snaps and briefly was surrounded by trainers on the bench. No worries, though. He returned.
First quarter, 10:15, Patriots 7-0: Blount just ran the ball in from the 1-foot line, and we’ll never got those last 13 seconds of our lives back.
Darius Fleming’s heads up play paid off, when he gave the Patriots great field position from the 26-yard line.
First quarter, 10:28, Patriots 0-0: Blount just ran it in from 3 yards out for the TD, but the play is under review. It looks like his knee might have have been down before crossing the goal line.
If it is down, then Blount still has the first down, and the Patriots will have the ball on the 1-yard line, first and goal.
Update: Blount’s knee was down. The ball is on the 1-foot line.
First quarter, 12:30: The Patriots were forced to punt after a three-and-out, and Josh Cribbs muffed his fair catch right into New England linebacker Darius Fleming’s arms. The Patriots have the ball at the Colts’ 26-yard line.
Update 7 p.m.: Tom Brady just re-surpassed Peyton Manning for most playoff passing yards in a career.
First quarter, 14:11: Gillette Stadium is bumping early. Patriots fans might be at their loudest ever.
The Colts went three and out to start the game, and now Julian Edelman had a decent 20-yard return, taking the punt back to the Patriots’ own 44-yard line.
First quarter, 15:00: The Colts called heads, the coin toss came up tails, and the Patriots chose to defer.
Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown came out as honorary captains, joining current Patriots Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, Vince Wilfork and Dan Connolly.
6:40 p.m.: The winner of Colts-Patriots will go on to face the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.
The AFC Championship Game kicks off in 10 minutes.
6:24 p.m.: Since the NFC Championship Game went into overtime, the Colts-Patriots kickoff has been pushed back to 6:50 p.m.
6:05 p.m.: Patriots fans in Gillette Stadium are cheering on the Green Bay Packers as the Seattle Seahawks are making a last-second comeback in the NFC Championship Game. The Patriots lost to the Packers in Green Bay during the close regular-season matchup.
It appears, based on pregame warmups, that Josh Kline will start at right guard. Ryan Wendell is at center.
5:51 p.m.: Tom Brady just came onto the field to his entrance music, Jay Z’s “Public Service Announcement.”
5:21 p.m.: Here are two videos of Julian Edelman going through his pregame warmup routine, which took place later than usual because of the tarp covering the field earlier.
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5:09 p.m.: The Patriots are suiting up just three wide receivers. Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms are among the Patriots’ inactives tonight.
Here are all of the Patriots’ inactives:
C Bryan Stork
DE Zach Moore
WR Bryan Tyms
RB James White
OL Jordan Devey
DL Chris Jones
WR Josh Boyce
Here are the Colts’ inactives:
WR Griff Whalen
RB Trent Richardson
CB Sheldon Price
OT Xavier Nixon
OC Jonathan Harrison
LB Bjoern Werner
DT Zach Kerr
3:45 p.m.: A tarp still is on the field here at Gillette Stadium, and the wind is starting to pick up. It’s currently 53 degrees and cloudy, with 15-mph winds going southeast toward the lighthouse.
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It’s not currently raining three hours before kickoff, so the tarp could come off soon.
Noon: AFC Championship Game day finally has arrived.
After a long eight-day wait, the New England Patriots are playing another playoff game, and the weather seems to be set up nicely for a hometown win.
By the 6:40 p.m. kickoff, it’s supposed to be 44 degrees in Foxboro with a 34 percent chance of rain. The chance of precipitation rises to 75 percent by 8 p.m., which could call for a run-heavy attack by both teams.
The Indianapolis Colts are used to playing in a dome, and they’re down to third-string running back Boom Herron and Zurlon Tipton, who began the year on the practice squad. Week 1 starter Trent Richardson stayed home because of a family emergency, though he was inactive last week in the Colts’ divisional-round playoff win over the Denver Broncos anyway. Ahmad Bradshaw was placed on injured reserve after being hurt during the Patriots’ Week 11 win over the Colts.
The Colts ran for 19 yards on 16 carries in Week 11, and 15 of those yards came on three rushes by quarterback Andrew Luck. The Patriots ran for 246 yards on 44 carries in that game, and they’ve since added LeGarrette Blount, who has become their de facto bell cow running back. Blount had two touchdowns in last year’s divisional-round playoff win over the Colts.
Jonas Gray had 37 carries for 201 yards with four touchdowns in Week 11, though there’s a chance he won’t be active tonight. He has been inactive in the Patriots’ past two games, including their divisional-round win over the Baltimore Ravens, when he was probable to play with an ankle injury. Gray was taken off the injury report this week, but the Patriots could elect to role with Blount, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden at the position.
If the game does come down to who has the better rushing attack and run defense, then the Patriots should have no problem winning. Patriots defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Sealver Siliga are difficult to move, linebacker Dont’a Hightower is one of the best run-stuffers in the NFL, and left defensive end Rob Ninkovich is excellent at setting the edge.
My prediction: Patriots 38-24.