FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patriot games are simply no fun for the visiting Indianapolis Colts in January.
Hopefully, here endeth the lesson.
Eleven years to the day of their first playoff smackdown at Gillette Stadium, the Colts were administered their fourth postseason beating at “The Razor,” again by double digits, and the second time in an AFC Championship Game.
The New England Patriots sure know how to put these guys away.
It began with a muffed punt that bounced off a facemask in the opening quarter. The Patriots recovered the Josh Cribbs goof, and drove to a score. The Colts’ Adam Vinatieri missed a 51-yard field goal wide right. The Patriots took advantage of the ideal field position and drove to another score.
And so it went, AFC playoff history repeating itself Sunday night, as the Patriots punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLIX by knocking out the Colts 45-7.
This was easily the worst of the Colts’ four playoff losses at “The Razor” since 2004, which have come by an average of 21.5 points. This was the second time in an AFC Championship Game. New England tied a playoff franchise record with 45 points.
The Patriots are in a Super Bowl for the sixth time in 15 years — the AFC’s No. 1 seed (14-4) will meet the NFC’s No. 1 seed, the Seattle Seahawks (14-4) in Glendale, Ariz.
As a light but steady rain soaked the players and most in a stadium-shaking crowd, New England won with a lot of everything.
They played smashmouth. Running back LeGarrette Blount slammed his way into the end zone on touchdown runs of one, 13 and 2 yards. A disgruntled guy who got cut earlier this season by Pittsburgh set a new Patriots postseason record with 30 rushing attempts. At times, the 148 yards seemed too easy.
Yeah, Solder, a 320-pound blocker, even reached the end zone, for crying out loud. He caught the Colts napping on a tackle-eligible play in the third quarter.
So the Patriots won with trickery, too. Not that it was really needed.
Oh, and they won with defense, too. New England made Colts quarterback Andrew Luck look like he was out of his element in the elements. The Colts’ offense was stagnant early and except for a 1-yard Zurlon Tipton TD run in the second quarter had no response to the Patriots’ onslaught.
Luck completed less than half of his passes to finish 12-of-33 for 126 yards with two interceptions.
While he’s a rising NFL star with three consecutive Pro Bowls in as many seasons, Luck fell to 0-4 in career games against the Patriots with 10 interceptions and one lost fumble.
Brady completed 23-of-35 passes for 226 yards and three TDs with one interception. He’ll be gunning for his fourth Super Bowl ring in desert. Patriots coach Bill Belichick gets a chance to win his sixth, counting two as a New York Giants defensive coordinator.
The season-ending loss couldn’t have been more disheartening for the fourth-seeded Colts, who thought they were riding a wave of momentum after last Sunday’s 24-13 upset of the second-seeded Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning in the Mile High City.
But this, instead, was a flashback to ugly regular-season losses, 42-7 at Dallas, 54-31 at Pittsburgh and 42-20 to these Patriots on Nov. 16 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts fell to earth with a resounding thud.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.