FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — LeGarrette Blount wasn’t satisfied with three short touchdown runs, not against a team coming off the second greatest comeback in playoff history.
So the 250-pound back who makes long runs routine took off on a 73-yarder and carried the New England Patriots to their third straight AFC Championship Game with a 43-22 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
Suddenly, the ground game has replaced Tom Brady as the heart of the Patriots’ offense.
“Once I get into the open field, they’re going to have to chase me,” Blount said. “And if they catch me, they do. And if they don’t, they don’t. They usually don’t.”
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They didn’t two weeks earlier when he scored on runs of 36 and 35 yards in the regular-season finale against Buffalo. He also returned kickoffs 83 and 62 yards in that 34-20 victory that gave New England a first-round bye. And they didn’t on his long touchdown that gave the Patriots (13-4) a 36-22 lead early in the fourth quarter against the Colts (12-6).
The Patriots will face the winner of the game Sunday between the Broncos and Chargers. It will be in Denver if the Broncos win, and New England will host it if the Chargers win.
“It’s just a great achievement,” Brady said. “People have counted us out at times this year, but I think we’ve got a locker room full of believers.”
Blount tied Curtis Martin’s team playoff record of 166 yards rushing, on 24 carries, two weeks after rushing for a career-high 189.
“He’s got that combination of size, power and quickness and speed,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He can run hard. He can make guys miss and he can go the distance.”
The former Oregon star scored on three 2-yard runs in the first half, then burst through the right side for his 73-yarder. Once he reached the end zone, he placed the ball gently on the ground made soggy by rain.
On the next series, Luck threw his third interception and the Patriots capitalized with Stevan Ridley’s second touchdown run, a 1-yarder that finished the scoring with 11:12 left.
“I’m just disappointed in myself,” Luck said. “I can’t commit that many turnovers and have a chance to win against a great team like this.”
Blount joined Ricky Watters, who had five touchdowns for San Francisco on Jan. 15, 1994, as the only players with four or more in a playoff game. The Patriots’ six rushing touchdowns tied the 49ers’ total in that game for second most in playoff history.
Blount’s performance came two weeks after he ran for 189 yards and returned two kickoffs for 145 in a 34-20 victory over Buffalo in the regular-season finale.
Billed as a matchup between quarterbacks — longtime great Brady and second-year star Luck — the Patriots’ leader was content to hand off while Luck threw an interception on his second pass and never found consistency. He threw two touchdown passes to LaVon Brazill but also threw four interceptions.
Luck had three interceptions a week earlier but led the Colts from a 38-10 deficit early in the third quarter to a 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in a wild-card game.
“We had our chances, man, to make plays and get our offense back on the field,” Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. “Last game, we were able to do that, but it was a great quarterback, a great offense and a great team we were facing (Saturday).”