FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — LeGarrette Blount had three 2-yard touchdown runs in the first half, and Stevan Ridley rushed for a TD and a 2-point conversion in the third quarter to help the New England Patriots take a 29-22 lead over the Indianapolis Colts in a rainy AFC divisional round playoff game Saturday night.
Adam Vinatieri kicked a 21-yard field goal on Indianapolis' first possession of the second half to make it 21-15, but the Colts could have had more.
Andrew Luck completed consecutive passes of 40 yards to T.Y. Hilton and 16 to Coby Fleener to get the ball to the 4, but New England (12-4) made a nice defensive stand to keep Indianapolis out of the end zone.
Tom Brady came out on the Patriots' next offensive play and connected with a wide-open Danny Amendola for 53 yards. New England moved down the field with an efficient nine-play, 88-yard drive that was capped by Ridley pushing his way into the end zone. He then made it a two-touchdown game with a 2-point conversion.
But as he did last week against Kansas City, Luck showed he can put up points in a hurry, too. First, he completed a 46-yard pass to Hilton and then hit LaVon Brazill for a 35-yard touchdown strike, his second of the game, with 5:01 left in the third quarter to make it 29-22.
The winner advances to play the winner of Sunday's matchup between San Diego and Denver in the AFC championship game next Sunday.
The Colts (12-5) were coming off a stunning 45-44 victory over the Chiefs in which they overcame a 38-10 third-quarter deficit in the wild-card game for the second-biggest comeback victory in NFL playoffs history.
The Patriots, who had a first-round bye and entered 8-0 at home this season, were trying to become the first team since the Philadelphia Eagles to reach at least three consecutive conference championship games. Philadelphia reached four straight in the NFC from 2001-04.
On the Colts' third play of the game from scrimmage — third-and-2 from their 28 — Luck threw a short pass for Brazill that Alfonzo Dennard got his hands on and snatched from the receiver. Dennard ran down the right sideline before stepping out of bounds at the 2, the first of two first-half interceptions for Luck.
Brady & Co. wasted no time getting on the scoreboard with a handoff to Blount, who went off left tackle and into the end zone to give New England the lead 1:19 into the game.
Blount scored on another 2-yard run to cap the Patriots' second drive, putting New England up 14-0 midway through the opening quarter. It marked the third straight game that Blount has run for at least two touchdowns.
Brady completed four passes for 57 yards on the 10-play drive, becoming the first NFL quarterback to throw for over 6,000 yards in the postseason.
The Colts bounced back with an impressive drive of their own, capped by Brazill's 38-yard touchdown catch in stride over the hands of Dennard to cut it to 14-7 with 4:35 left in the first quarter. Luck completed third-down passes of 9 yards to Fleener on third-and-3 and 22 yards to Griff Whalen to set up the score.
The Colts' Adam Vinatieri, a former Patriots star, set the NFL mark with his 59th career playoff extra point after Brazill's score.
Blount got his third TD run, a 2-yard dive, early in the second quarter, capping a 14-play, 75-yard drive that put the Patriots ahead 21-7. The three rushing scores tied a franchise mark set by Curtis Martin against Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, 1997.
Vinatieri's 36-yard field goal with 5:35 left before halftime cut it to 21-10.
The Colts made it 21-12 on a safety with 2:12 remaining in the second quarter on a bizarre play that might have been affected by the slick conditions. After a soaking rain drenched the area for most of the day, there was a steady mist at kickoff that continued throughout the game with temperatures an unseasonably warm 57 degrees.
Danny Aiken's snap to rookie punter Ryan Allen floated way over Allen's head on fourth-and-2 from the Patriots 49. Allen chased the ball and recovered it near the 3, but had it knocked out of his hands by Andy Studebaker, who injured his neck on the play. The Colts' Jeris Pendleton went for the loose ball, but inadvertently slapped it out of the end zone.
Officials ruled the play a safety, with fumbles on both Aiken and Allen.
Allen was taken to the locker room after the play with a shoulder injury and his return was questionable. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was forced into punting duties, booting a 53-yarder shortly before halftime.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
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