In what was a stifling performance by the Patriots defense on Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, New England intercepted the red-hot Manning four times and sacked him four times to put an end to one of the most amazing post season runs in NFL history.
Patriots cornerback Ty Law had three of the four interceptions and defensive end Jarvis Green had three sacks to lead the Patriots. Unlike the previous two teams the Colts faced in the playoffs, the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis could never get into a rhythm on offense.
With colder conditions and the snow showers early in the game, New England took advantage of all the Colts miscues.
But the turning point of the game might have been the very first drive by the Patriots. After taking the opening kick-off 65-yards and controlling the clock for the first 8:16 of the quarter, quarterback Tom Brady hit David Givens from 7-yards out for a 7-0 lead.
The Patriots efficiently worked the ball down the field and used up the clock, converted third and fourth downs on a magnificent 13 play drive. The Colts came right back and drove down the field on their next possession but Manning threw his first interception into the hands of safety Rodney Harrison in the end zone.
That seemed to set the tone for the Patriots defense the rest of the day.
But the Patriots offense had its problems as well. The Colts defense bent but did not break after that but New England thanks to the right leg of kicker Adam Vinatieri connected on five field goals (31, 25, 27, 21, and 34 yards). The last field goal came to ice the victory after the Colts turned the ball over on downs with less than two minutes left in the game.
The Colts tried in vein on offense to get back into the game in the third quarter. Trailing 15-0 Edgerrin James scored from 2-yards out making it a one possession game. The Colts drew within 15-8 but Vinatieri added two more third quarter field goals entering the fourth quarter.
But Indianapolis valiantly fought back late in the fourth quarter. Manning led the Colts back to 21-14 when he hit Marcus Pollard on a 7-yard strike.
After the touchdown with less than three minutes to go, the Colts tried an on-side kick. It failed but the defense held the Patriots to a three and out and forced a punt to gain possession on the 20-yard line.
But that would be the closest the Colts had to tying the game. After four consecutive failed passing attempts, Indianapolis turned the ball over on downs and Vinatieri nailed his fifth field goal and the Patriots sealed the victory.
The Colts had five turnovers in total and a muffed punt that created a safety and still despite all those miscues had a chance to tie the game in the last two minutes of the game. The Colts had a great post-season run and today they just didn't have enough to win their second consecutive playoff road game outdoors.
For the Patriots it was their 14th consecutive win of the season, 10th straight at home and Bill Belichick and his staff have done the best coaching job in NFL history this season in getting New England back to the Super Bowl.
With all the injuries, the close games, player turmoil and an offense that was less than spectacular at times; he put his eggs all in the defensive basket this year and it paid huge dividends.
Now the Patriots will face the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl. It's been a long great and impressive run by New England. Now it's truly down to a one-game season in Super Bowl XXXXVIII in Houston, Texas on February 1st.