FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Run, LeGarrette, run!
Tom Brady was cool with it. So was coach Bill Belichick, once his running back took his advice midseason and lowered his pad level so his 250-pound frame wouldn't be so easy to haul down.
"Once I changed that, I started breaking tackles," explained LeGarrette Blount, New England's newly minted all-time franchise leader in single-game postseason rushing touchdowns (four). The Patriots rode Blount's sturdy legs past the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night in a 43-22 playoff victory that propelled them into the AFC Championship Game next Sunday.
Coming into this game, the Colts were ranked 26th in the league in rushing defense, relinquishing a gaudy 5.1 yards per carry. So it was hardly a shock that New England decided to run the ball on a day when high winds and driving rain descended on Gillette Stadium.
But rushing it 46 times? For 234 yards and six touchdowns? For a team whose resident legend and future Hall of Famer just happens to be a quarterback?
The Patriots have just advanced to the AFC title game with a victory in which Brady did not throw a single touchdown pass.
"If you told me that before the game, I would not have believed that," Blount admitted.
The glitzy Brady-versus- Andrew Luck story never materialized, but don't make the mistake of thinking Brady failed to put his stamp on this game. His fingerprints were all over it, even when he was merely handing off the ball. He established tempo, audibled when he needed to and happily watched his running backs flourish.
Brady submitted a tidy, efficient performance (13-of-25 for 198 yards) that included some pinpoint passes in traffic to Julian Edelman and a 53-yard play action bomb to Danny Amendola when they caught Indianapolis' secondary nodding off.
"I think because we were running the ball so well, maybe that got a little reaction and Danny got behind them," Brady said.
In the first half alone, the Patriots ran the ball 25 times and threw it just 11 times, yet the running backs' average was a modest 3.2 yards a carry. Who would have questioned offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels if he put the ball in Brady's hands more for the final two quarters?
"I wouldn't have blamed him if he went to Tom," Blount said with a shrug. "He's the best quarterback in the game."
Instead, McDaniels stuck to his game plan. He reminded Blount, Stevan Ridley et al that the 2-yard and 3-yard gains wear down the defense and eventually lay the groundwork for the crack in coverage that allows for the big gain.
"We always want to be the most physical team, so when we have the opportunity to go in there and really pound the rock -- McDaniels really likes to do that," explained tight end Mike Mulligan. "I really liked that he stayed with it and gave us the opportunity to seize the moment." On a night of big moments, none was more stunning than Blount's 73-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter when the Patriots were holding tight to a tenuous 29-22 advantage. Blount's bulldozed his way behind his stellar offensive line, cut right, found daylight and kept running until he reached the end zone, thereby setting a new Patriots franchise record of four rushing touchdowns in one postseason game.