New England Patriots cruise past Indianapolis to reach Super Bowl

Tom Brady inspires the second biggest win in AFC Championship history to set up eighth appearance

 New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after the AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photograph: EPA/CJ GUNTHER)

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after the AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photograph: EPA/CJ GUNTHER)

 

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are headed to a special place where no coach or player has gone more — the Super Bowl.

They earned their trip with the second most lopsided AFC championship victory ever.

The New England Patriots dominant duo earned a sixth trip to the Super Bowl with a 45-7 wipeout of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game before a raucous, rain-soaked crowd Sunday night.

The Patriots tied Dallas and Pittsburgh for most appearances in the big game with eight.

Scoring touchdowns on their first four second-half possessions, the Patriots (14-4) moved on to face defending champion Seattle (14-4) for the NFL title on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. Belichick will face Pete Carroll, whom he replaced as Patriots coach in 2000. The Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime in the NFC title game.

In his first year as a starter, Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win in the 2001 season, starting a run of three championships in four years. Now he and Belichick have a chance for their first in 10 years.

Brady threw three touchdown passes, LeGarrette Blount ran 30 times for 148 yards and three scores and the Patriots charged away after leading just 17-7 at halftime.

With his sixth Super Bowl berth, Brady surpassed John Elway for the most by a quarterback and tied defensive lineman Mike Lodish for most by any player. Belichick’s sixth visit tied him with Don Shula’s for most by a coach.

Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards before being replaced by Jimmy Garoppolo with 3:20 left. Brady went to the sideline where he was embraced by Belichick. Moments earlier, while sitting on the bench, Brady was shown on the video board with soaked hair. He pumped his fist in the air 12 times then slapped hands with teammates.

The biggest blowout in AFC title history was Buffalo’s 51-3 win over the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1990 season.

For Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, it was the worst game of his three-year career and the fourth rout in his four career games against the Patriots, all by at least three touchdowns. He completed 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

He lost 43-22 in last season’s divisional playoff with Blount rushing for 166 yards and four touchdowns. And on Nov. 16, he lost 43-22 as Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns.

The Indianapolis defense was porous against the run again Sunday night. They weren’t much better against the pass.

And when Luck threw an interception that Darrelle Revis late in the third quarter, Blount ran 13 yards for the touchdown that made it 38-7.

One fan held up a sign: “No Luck In Our House”

But there was plenty of skill — and a touch of surprise — from the Patriots.

Eight days after baffling Baltimore with a four-man offensive linemen formation that drew a loud protest from Ravens coach John Harbaugh in the Patriots 35-31 divisional win, Belichick called a pass to left tackle Nate Solder, who was eligible, that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown that made it 24-7 with just under five minutes gone in the third quarter.

The Patriots kept rolling with touchdowns on each of their next three series — a 5-yard pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski, and Blount’s runs of 13 and 2 yards.

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