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Monday, January 19, 2015

Pats Book Their Trip to Super Bowl 49 vs. Seahawks With Easy 45-7 Blowout of Colts

I can't ever recall being so confident heading into a big playoff game for the Patriots as I was this week for the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium vs. the Colts. It turns out that I was giving Indianapolis way too much credit as they got run out of town 45-7. The Pats will take on the Seahawks a week from Sunday in Glendale, Arizona for Super Bowl 49.

Indy was so helpless and overmatched that this contest doesn't even deserve that many details of the one-sided carnage. Believe it or not, it was only 17-7 Patriots at halftime. Who knew that they'd go on to the second-biggest margin of victory in AFC Championship Game history? Tom Brady (23 of 25 for 226 yards, 3 TDs) threw an interception at the goal-line when he tried to force a throw to Rob Gronkowski but that was his only real mistake of the game and it didn't matter one bit. He became the first QB with 20 postseason wins as he advances to his record sixth Super Bowl.

Poor Andrew Luck can't do anything but get smoked by the Patriots, this is the fourth time (out of 4) in his young career that he's lost by over 20 points to New England. In many ways, it was a carbon copy of last season's blowout win by New England a round earlier. Like that, LeGarrette Blount (30 carries, 148 yards, 3 TDs) was unstoppable or should I say that nobody on the Colts wanted a piece of him when it came to tackling in space.

Indianapolis was extremely fortunate to make it this far after they upset Denver at home last Sunday. I'm not saying that crippled Peyton would have done much better but it's hard to think of a more one-sided affair than this was. Andrew Luck (12 of 33 for 126 yards, 2 INTs) was a disaster, not that his fraud teammates could get anything going as well to help him out.

The Pats continued to try and take advantage of the chaos with their cute ineligible receivers but Indy was there to stop most of them. In addition, Brady managed to hit James Develin for a 1-yard touchdown catch and offensive lineman Nate Solder caught a 16-yard touchdown to get the second half going in the right direction. New England exploded for 21 points in that frame. Gronk caught a 5-yard touchdown and Julian Edelman (9 catches, 98 yards) seamlessly replaces Wes Welker.

Darrelle Revis and Jamie Collins each had an interception for New England's defense (that looked like themselves again after last week's debacle vs. Baltimore) who pitched a shutout in the second half. It's hard to really evaluate Luck since everything around him is so average (at best). T.Y. Hilton was held to one catch and Reggie Wayne didn't have any, leading me to wonder if that was it and he'll retire this offseason since he's a ghost of his former Hall of Fame self.

The Packers had one of the great choke jobs in modern sports history against the Seahawks this afternoon in Seattle, allowing the home team to escape 28-22 in overtime. No matter how you evaluate it, the Seahawks are a scary matchup for the Patriots. Their only real noticeable weakness is at receiver but still guys like Jermaine Kearse (who caught the game-winner) and Doug Baldwin are good enough to make a couple big plays a game.

This is a dream matchup for the NFL and football fans (yes, I'd say that even if I didn't root for the Pats): it should get a record rating as the new dynasty goes vs. the old one, Belichick vs. Carroll, Brandon Browner vs. his former team, Brady vs. Wilson, Sherman vs. Revis and leftover feelings from Seattle's win a few years back vs. New England (when Sherman popularized "U Mad Bro?}. The two weeks between Championship Weekend and the Super Bowl always feel like they last forever but for once, I won't complain about it. If ever a game deserved that ungodly amount of hype, it's this one. I expect it to be an instant classic.

PS it'll be nice that unlike three years ago vs. the Giants when Gronk's ankle was hurt that we won't have to hear about blind injury speculation regarding him. Instead it will focus on Earl Thomas (shoulder) and Sherman (elbow) who are both getting MRIs on Monday. As Belichick, now the most winningest head coach in postseason history, said in the joyous post-game: "I've only got one thing to say-we're on to Seattle."

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