New England clicking on all cylinders
Brady, Belichick earn sixth trip to Super Bowl
Foxborough, Mass. — No coach has more postseason wins than Bill Belichick. No quarterback has been to more Super Bowls than Tom Brady.
And these New England Patriots are so much more than that dynamic duo, as the overwhelmed Indianapolis Colts learned.
Belichick and Brady earned their sixth trip to the big game — and Belichick got his 21st post-season win — with the second-most lopsided AFC championship ever, 45-7, before a raucous, rainsoaked crowd Sunday night.
“I only have one thing to say. We’re on to Seattle,” Belichick said, adapting the rallying cry he repeated, “We’re on to Cincinnati,” after a loss at Kansas City dropped the Patriots to 2-2.
The Patriots (14-4) will face the defending champion Seahawks (14-4) for the NFL title on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz. The stoic Belichick will match wits with the enthusiastic Pete Carroll, whom he replaced as Patriots coach 2000. The Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers, 28-22, in overtime in the NFC title game.
Brady threw three touchdown passes, LeGarrette Blount ran 30 times for 148 yards and three scores and the Patriots scored touchdowns on four straight possessions after leading just 17-7 at halftime.
“I know we’ve had some ups and downs this year,” Brady said, “but right now we’re up, baby, and we’re going to try to stay up for one more game.”
Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts have a long wait for their next game. The No. 1 draft choice in 2012 had the worst performance of his career and the fourth rout in his four games against the Patriots, all by at least three touchdowns. He completed 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
“It’s hard to find much good (in the season) fresh off this game,” Luck said. “We had our sights set higher.”
In his first season as a starter in 2001, Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win, starting a run of three championships in four years. Now he and Belichick have a chance for their first in 10 years.
The list of milestones is long:
Brady surpassed John Elway for most Super Bowls for a quarterback and tied defensive lineman Mike Lodish for most by any player.
Belichick tied Don Shula for most Super Bowls for a coach and broke a tie with Tom Landry for postseason wins.
New England tied Dallas and Pittsburgh for most appearances in the big game with eight.
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.
One play after Luck threw an interception to 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”
Eight days after baffling Baltimore with a four-man offensive linemen formation, Belichick called a pass to left tackle Nate Solder that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown that made it 24-7 with just under five minutes gone in the third quarter.
“We’ve been practicing that for years,” Solder said. “The stars were aligned.”
The Patriots kept rolling with touchdowns on each of their next three series — a 5yard pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski, and Blount’s runs of 13 and 2 yards.
“He made some great cuts in not good conditions,” Belichick said of Blount. “He’s a tough guy to tackle.”
All that added up to a shot at another championship for the Patriots, who lost Super Bowls to the New York Giants in the 2007 and 2011 seasons.
NFL investigation: The NFL is investigating whether the Patriots deflated footballs that were used in their victo- ry over the Colts.
“We are looking into it,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Monday. “We do not have anything further to add at this point.”
The inquiry was first reported by the website for WTHR-TV in Indiana, citing an unnamed source.
“We’ll cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to, whatever questions they ask,” Belichick said Monday during his regular conference call with reporters.
He said he was unaware there was an issue until Monday morning.
The Patriots have come under scrutiny with regard to NFL rules in the past, most infamously when they were punished for videotaping sideline signals used by the New York Jets during a 2007 game. Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was docked $250,000 and stripped of its 2008 first-round draft pick.
According to the NFL rule book, home teams are responsible for furnishing playable balls at all times. Each team brings 12 primary balls, while home teams are required to also bring 12 backup balls.
Once the referee makes sure the footballs are properly inflated, they’re delivered to ball attendants provided by the home team.
The league’s game operations manual notes: “If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the per- son responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.”
Deflating a football could change the way it would be gripped by a player or the way it travels through the air.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he did not notice issues with the football. He did not specify when asked whether the Colts had reported the issue to officials.
“We talk just like they talk to officials (before the game), we have an opportunity to talk to the officials about a lot of things, things that you’ve seen on tape like the formations we talked about last week,” Pagano said. “Every coach in the league gets an opportunity to visit with the officials about that kind of stuff before the game.”
The Patriots’ Tom Brady and Bill Belichick celebrate their victory.