FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was supposed to be the matchup of elite quarterbacks, the aging future Hall of Famer against the rising young star.
But on a rainy night at Gillette Stadium, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck were merely subplots. Head coach Bill Belichick and his offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, turned the Patriots into a ball-control running team against an erratic Indianapolis Colts' defense.
So as Brady failed to record a touchdown pass, the Patriots still thrived. LeGarrette Blount rushed for a franchise postseason-record four touchdowns as the Patriots advanced to the AFC Championship Game with a 43-22 victory.
New England will play the winner of Sunday's Chargers-Broncos game. If the Broncos win, the Patriots travel to Denver next week. If the Chargers win, New England hosts San Diego.
Blount ran for 166 yards, matching the franchise record for most rushing yards in a postseason game. And he broke the game open with a 73-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, the second-longest postseason touchdown run in team history.
That score halted an Indianapolis comeback in the second half.
New England's Stevan Ridley scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter, responding to an Adam Vinatieri field goal that pulled the Colts within 22-15. But Luck hit T.Y. Hilton on a 46-yard reception before connecting with LaVon Brazill on a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Just like that, Luck delivered a touchdown to keep the Colts in the game as it moved into the fourth quarter. But the Patriots' defense forced the Colts to punt on their first possession of the quarter and Blount scampered 73 yards on first down, shifting momentum back to New England.
Luck threw his third interception on the ensuing possession, as rookie linebacker Jamie Collins gathered the pass and ran to the Colts 18. Five plays later, Ridley ran in from a yard and it was a three-touchdown spread.
The six rushing touchdowns was a team postseason record. The NFL record is seven.
Blount matched Curtis Martin's record for rushing yards, set in 1997 against the Steelers. Martin had three touchdowns in that game, the franchise record until Saturday.
Luck was 20 of 41 for 331 yards and two touchdown, but he threw four interceptions. Brady was 13 of 25 for 198 yards.
It was the 18th postseason victory of Brady's career. It was also the 19th postseason win of Belichick's career, matching Don Shula for second on the all-time list. Tom Landry leads with 20.
It took all of 1 minutes, 15 seconds for the Patriots to seize control of the game. Luck's pass to Brazill on third-and-2 from the Colts 28 was intercepted by Alfonzo Dennard, who returned the ball to the Indianapolis 2.
On first down, Blount scored, and the Patriots had the lead.
Luck and the Colts got the ball back on their 20, and their second drive wasn't much better than the first. After a 2-yard run by Donald Brown, there were two incomplete passes before Indianapolis punted.
The Patriots took over at their own 26 and marched down the field with a 10-play drive that ate 5:03 off the clock. While Blount carried the ball six times, Brady was sharp during the drive.
There was a 25-yard completion to Julian Edelman, moving the ball to the Colts 30. Later, Brady tossed a short pass over the middle to Danny Amendola for a 16-yard gain. That completion -- which moved the ball to the Colts 7 -- gave Brady more than 6,000 career postseason passing yards, the first player to do in NFL history.
Two plays later, Blount scored on another 2-yard run. It was 14-0 with 7:17 left in the first quarter.
But just when it seemed that the Patriots were rolling toward a blowout, the Colts responded. Their seven-play drive began with a nifty 7-yard run by Brown and was punctuated by a 38-yard touchdown pass by Luck to Brazill.
Luck led Brazill as he sprinted past Dennard along the right side. And when the Colts held Brady and the Patriots to three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the momentum shifted.
Vinatieri's point-after made it 14-7. It was an NFL-record 59th career postseason extra point kick by the former Patriot.
But the Patriots took over with 2:22 left in the first quarter and pieced together a 14-play, 75-yard drive to regain control of the tempo. As they controlled the line of scrimmage, the Patriots simply ran the ball through the Colts -- there were 10 rushes during the drive, which culminated in another 2-yard touchdown run by Blount.
But the Colts didn't wilt. Luck drove them to the Patriots' 18 on their next drive, and a field goal by Vinatieri made it 21-10.
The Patriots' next drive stalled at their own 44 and they were set to punt. But the snap sailed over punter Ryan Allen and the ball rolled deep into Patriots' territory. Allen retrieved the ball near the goal line and appeared to attempt a pass, but the ball was deflected into the end zone.
It was ruled that Allen fumbled the ball into the end zone, giving the Colts a safety. Allen, meanwhile, hurt his shoulder on the play and kicker Stephen Gostkowski was forced to punt.
At halftime, the Patriots held a 21-12 lead.
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