Tom Brady ran off the field to chants of his last name, soaking up a moment he knows doesn't come around often. Even if it's happened more for him than any quarterback in NFL history.
The New England Patriots are headed to the sixth Super Bowl of the Brady-Belichick era after pasting the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 Sunday. They will face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona. Yup, the Patriots are returning to the scene of the crime of their toughest loss under Belichick.
For now, the Patriots can revel in a complete destruction of a quality team. Like every other game between the Colts and Patriots of late, New England was way too tough up front for Indianapolis. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 148 yards and Andrew Luck was under duress all day from a revived Patriots pass rush.
- New England used six offensive linemen often in this game, much like they did when Jonas Gray ripped off 201 yards in Indianapolis back in November. The Colts knew that power football was coming their way, but they had no ability to stop it. Blount set up a lot of favorable third-down situations, and Brady capitalized by hitting Julian Edelman nine times in the game.
- The Colts trailed at halftime 17-7, a particularly discouraging score because Brady was struggling and Rob Gronkowski was invisible. The Patriots then scored touchdowns on their next four drives. New England's offense specializes in short passing and long, debilitating marches down the field. That comes from great efficiency on the money down; the Patriots hit on 12-of-18 third downs.
- This Patriots defense is better than any Belichick has coached since at least 2007. Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones provided pressure, while Darrelle Revis and Collins both had interceptions in the back end. Andrew Luck completed only 12-of-33 passes for 126 yards. His accuracy was affected by the blustery conditions and heavy rain, but he also didn't seem to know where to find open receivers.
- Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington deserves a game ball for tracking T.Y. Hilton for the second straight meeting with the Colts. He usually only plays in the slot, but Arrington was used to follow Hilton inside and out to great effect. Hilton had only one catch, which came on the type of miraculous throw-and-catch from Luck to Hilton that we've grown accustomed to seeing.
- It's amazing the Colts got this far with so many holes on their roster. They don't have a natural pass-rusher. Cory Redding was their best defensive player in the playoffs outside of cornerback Vontae Davis. Their running game was led by Boom Herron and Zurlon Tipton. Indianapolis has the best young quarterback in the game and they have made it closer to the Super Bowl every year since Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck hit town. But this is not close to a top-five NFL roster.
- The Patriots escaped the toughest game imaginable against Baltimore, and now appear to be playing with supreme confidence. That wasn't necessarily true of their last two Super Bowl appearances, where they didn't play their best in the playoffs. Beating Seattle is the ultimate test, and would be the ultimate way for Brady and Belichick to rewrite the history books again.