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Patriots 43, Colts 22

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- LeGarrette Blount made the most of his first NFL playoff game on Saturday night.

The running back ran for a club-record four touchdowns, powering the New England Patriots to a 43-22 victory over the Indianapolis Colts and into their third straight AFC title game.

The Patriots, seeking their first championship since 2004 and the fourth of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, will either visit the Denver Broncos or host the San Diego Chargers next Sunday in the conference title game.

New England ran for a club-record -- for any game --- six touchdowns.

Blount, the first Patriot ever to rush for four touchdowns in any game, scored his first three from 2 yards out and then ran 73 yards for his fourth score, that one coming into the fourth quarter to re-establish his team's 14-point lead.

Blount, coming off a career-high 189 yards in the regular season finale, ran for a club postseason record-tying 166 yards on 24 carries.

With rain falling on and off throughout a balmy night, running back Stevan Ridley scored the other two touchdowns, the second with 11:12 remaining. He also ran for a 2-point conversion.

Brady, winning his record 18th postseason game, was 13 of 25 for 198 yards. With the running game thriving, he has completed just 41 passes in the last three games, and his team has won all three.

The Patriots, who had run for just four touchdowns in their previous seven playoff games, ran for 234 yards, giving them 644 in the last three games.

Second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, who led his team from a 38-10 deficit to a win over Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card run, threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver LaVon Brazill but was picked off four times, twice by corner back Alfonzo Dennard, in the loss.

Luck was 20 of 41 for 331 yards.

Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who caught 13 passes for 224 yards and two scores against Kansas City, caught four passes for 103 yards, while wide receiver Julian Edelman caught six Brady passes.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was used as a punter after a shoulder injury to Ryan Allen and averaged an impressive 45.8 yards on four kicks before a throwaway 26-yarder in the final minutes. With Allen, the holder for kicks, missing, Brady held for extra points.

The win was Belichick's 19th in the postseason, tying him with Don Shula for second place all time, one win behind Tom Landry.

The heavy rain blanketing the area most of the day had subsided just as the Patriots scored just 2:19 into the game. Brazill should have done more to break up the play but Dennard picked it off and returned it 27 yards to the Colts' 2. Blount scored on the first play. The running back then capped a 74-yard drive with his second touchdown.

Luck then hit Brazill with a 38-yard touchdown pass and it was 14-7. But Brady hit two big passes to Edelman before Blount dove in again with 10:54 left in the half.

Former Patriot great Adam Vinatieri then kicked a 36-yard field goal with 5:35 left in the half. The high punt snap by Danny Aiken led to Allen fumbling the ball out of the end zone for the safety.

The Colts were marching again but fullback Stanley Havill dropped a pass right into the arms of New England linebacker Dont'a Hightower with 1:14 left in the half. On the ensuing punt, Gostkowski punted and bombed a 53-yarder.

NOTES: The game time temperature was a tropical 57, shattering the old Patriots postseason mark of 51. ... Patriots QB Tom Brady became the first player ever to throw for 6,000 postseason yards. Colts K Adam Vinatieri kicked his postseason-record 59 PAT in the first quarter. ... Patriots LB Brandon Spikes, placed on injured reserve earlier in the week, was, according to reports, actually reprimanded for being late for practice on a snowy day. "I can't get out of my driveway," Spikes tweeted. There are no lateness excuses for coach Bill Belichick. ... The Patriots were also missing rookie WR Aaron Dobson, out for the fifth time in the last six games with a foot injury. ... WR Deion Branch, the former Patriot signed by the Colts during the week, was not active, nor was injured WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (hamstring).
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