Sport

Sunday 17 December 2017

NFL: New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks advance to conference games

LeGarrette Blount of the New England Patriots runs a 73 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts
LeGarrette Blount of the New England Patriots runs a 73 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts

LeGarrette Blount rushed for four touchdowns as the New England Patriots pounded the Indianapolis Colts 43-22 on Saturday to advance to the AFC Championship game for a third straight year.

Coming off a first-round bye and playing at Gillette Stadium where they have not lost all season, the Patriots kept their perfect home record intact and now await the winner between the top-seeded Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers, who clash on Sunday in the other AFC divisional playoff.

The Patriots have traditionally relied on the arm of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady to get the job done but used a punishing ground game to subdue the Colts on Saturday.

Blount led the charge, rushing for a New England playoff record 166 yards and powering his way into the end zone for four scores, including a 73-yard rumble, with Stevan Ridley running in two more.

Brady, who has thrown 42 career post-season touchdown passes to sit third on the NFL all-time list, completed just 13-of-25 pass attempts for 198 yards and no touchdowns.

"We've been doing a good job at that (running the ball) since Thanksgiving really, we've been a great running team," said Brady after notching his 18th career post-season win, the most by any NFL quarterback.

"Our offensive line, what they did tonight, the way our backs ran was awesome.

"It was amazing, just keep handing it off and those guys keep running so hard and do such a great job finding the holes, slicing through there and finding as many yards as they can."

The Colts, who rallied from a 28-point deficit to beat the Kansas City Chiefs a week earlier in a wild card contest, once again found themselves playing catch-up as the Patriots bolted to a 14-0 lead.

Four times this season the Colts erased double-digit deficits and rallied for wins but they could not find a way back against the Patriots.

Meanwhile, The Seattle Seahawks, led by powerful running back Marshawn Lynch, used their tried and true formula to beat the New Orleans Saints 23-15 on a rainy, windy Saturday to advance to the NFC conference championship next Sunday.

The top-seeded Seahawks, who were 13-3 in the regular season, justified their ranking with an overpowering first half in taking a 16-0 lead before holding off a surge by the battling Saints.

"We played good, grind it out football," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who felt the wet, slippery conditions made it hard to rely on the passing game.

"This is exactly why you make a commitment to be a balanced offense and be a balanced football team. So when you have these opportunities and situations you can play defense, kick the ball and run the football."

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