January 10

Patriots, Colts are comeback kings

No deficit is too large for either New England or Indianapolis.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — This is one game you don’t want to leave early.

click image to enlarge

It’s gotten to be a pleasant sight around Foxborough, Mass., this season, watching quarterback Tom Brady and his teammates celebrating after pulling off one of those how-did-they-do-it victories. This one was against Cleveland. Indianapolis could be a victim Saturday night.

The Associated Press

RALLY TIME

The Patriots (12-4) are 8-4 in games decided by seven points or fewer, while the Colts (12-5) are 6-1 when the final margin is six or fewer. Below are the games where a late rally was needed.

Patriots

Sept 8: Beat Buffalo 23-21 on field goal with 5 seconds left.

Oct. 13: Beat Saints 30-27 on TD pass with 5 seconds left

Nov. 24: Rally from 24-point halftime deficit to beat Broncos, 34-31

Dec. 1: Beat Houston 34-31 on two 53-yard field goals in final 8 minutes

Dec. 8: Beat Cleveland 27-26 after trailing 6-0 at halftime

Colts

Sept 8: Beat Oakland 21-17 after trailing 17-14 in fourth quarter.

Oct. 6: Beat Seattle 34-28 after trailing 28-23 after three quarters

Nov. 3: Beat Houston 27-24 after trailing 24-6 in the third quarter.

Jan. 4: Beat Chiefs 45-44 after trailing 38-10 in a playoff game.

INDIANAPOLIS (12-5) at NEW ENGLAND (12-4)

WHEN: 8:15 p.m. Saturday

TELEVISION: CBS

OPENING LINE: Patriots by 7½

SERIES RECORD: Patriots lead 47-29

LAST MEETING: Patriots beat Colts 59-24, Nov. 18, 2012

LAST WEEK: Colts beat Chiefs 45-44, Patriots had bye

COLTS OFFENSE: Overall (15), rush (20T), pass (17)

COLTS DEFENSE: Overall (20), rush (26), pass (13)

PATRIOTS OFFENSE: Overall (7), rush (9), pass (10)

PATRIOTS DEFENSE: Overall (26), rush (30), pass (18)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES: Patriots 2-1 vs. Colts in postseason, last meeting won by Indianapolis 38-34 in AFC final Jan. 21, 2007. … Second-seeded Patriots, fourth-seeded Colts each beat AFC No. 1 seed Denver in regular season. ... Colts 11 postseason appearances since 2002 are most in NFL, Patriots have 10. ... Colts overcame 38-10 third-quarter deficit to beat Chiefs in wild-card game, second-biggest comeback victory ever in NFL playoffs. ... WR T.Y. Hilton’s 13 receptions against Kansas City tied for second-most in NFL postseason game. ... QB Andrew Luck’s 443 yards passing and four TD throws vs. Chiefs both second-most in team playoff history, behind Peyton Manning. ... LB Robert Mathis led NFL with club-record 19½ sacks, added sack of Alex Smith and forced fumble in playoff win over Chiefs, has 5½ postseason sacks. ... Colts’ 536 net yards against Kansas City a postseason franchise record. ... Indianapolis led NFL by committing fewest giveaways (14) and penalties (66). ... Former Patriots second-round draft pick Darius Butler led Colts with four interceptions. ... K Adam Vinatieri holds NFL postseason record with 49 field goals, 205 points in 10 seasons with Patriots, last eight with Colts. ... Patriots trying to become first team since Eagles to reach at least three straight conference championship games. Philadelphia reached four straight in NFC from 2001-04. ... Tom Brady seeking to extend his NFL record to 18 postseason wins by a starting quarterback, has most completions (553), attempts (887), yards passing (5,949) in NFL playoff history. ... WR Julian Edelman’s 105 catches were fourth in NFL, totaled just 69 in other four NFL seasons. ... RB LeGarrette Blount set franchise record with 334 all-purpose yards (189 rushing, 145 on two kickoff returns) in regular-season finale vs. Bills. ... DT Chris Jones led NFL rookies with six sacks. DE Chandler Jones led Patriots with career-high 11 1-2 sacks. ... Starting LB Brandon Spikes went on injured reserve Monday, joining three other key defenders on the list — Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly. ... Patriots 8-0 at home this season, have 14-4 postseason record at home, second-best in NFL. ... CB Logan Ryan’s five interceptions tops among NFL rookies. ... Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski led NFL with 158 points.

– The Associated Press

The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts will meet in an AFC divisional playoff game Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. And if it follows form, the game should be decided on the final possessions.

When it comes to comebacks or winning close games, these are two of the most resilient teams in the NFL.

Down 24 points to the Denver Broncos at the half, as the Patriots were Nov. 24? No problem. New England won 34-31 in overtime.

Down 28 points to the Kansas City Chiefs just 1:21 into the third quarter, as the Colts were in their playoff game last Saturday? No problem. Indianapolis won, 45-44.

The Patriots, led by Tom Brady, won five games in the last quarter this year, none more improbable than the 27-26 win over Cleveland on Dec. 8, a game New England trailed 26-14 with 2:39 remaining. Brady has 41 career winning drives, six won in the last minute.

The Colts, led by Andrew Luck, won four games in the last quarter this year. Luck has 11 winning drives in his first two seasons, and won seven of those games after trailing by double digits.

“I think that’s what’s going to be good about this game,’’ said Devin McCourty, the Patriots’ stellar safety. “We have two teams that when you talk about mental toughness, are kind of wired the same way. We’re going to keep playing all the way to the end of the game and I think we’re going to get the same from them.’’

These teams seem to thrive on close games, so this one shouldn’t be much different. The Colts were 6-1 in games decided by one possession or less this year and are 15-2 in such games over the last two years.

The Patriots were 7-4 in one-possession games this year, the four losses by a total of 18 points, all decided on the final possession.

Beyond that they have each had to overcome significant roster losses.

The Patriots have four of their top defensive players (Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes) and two of their best offensive players (tight end Rob Gronkowski and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer) on injured reserve.

The Colts have used an NFL-high 73 players this year.

Matthew Slater, the Patriots’ talented special-teams player, said that reflects well on each organization.

“I think that obviously speaks to the leadership that’s in place,’’ said Slater. “

I think we both have good coaches. Then it says a lot about the player leadership and the mental toughness that’s there, being able to adapt through adversity and through tough situations that we’ve been in. Usually that’s the case with the teams that are left in it at this point.’’

On both teams, players stress the need to play for 60 minutes. Get a big lead, don’t let up. Get down early, don’t give up.

“Ever since I’ve been a part of this team, guys have played hard for 60 minutes,’’ said Luck, who threw four touchdown passes and scored one (on a fumbled rush) last week.

“I know in most of those games, the defense has made an unbelievable stop or forced a turnover or the special teams makes a huge play or (former Patriot Adam Vinatieri) kicks a huge field goal to win it or you get a big momentum-changing specials teams play and offensively we manage to put some decent drives together.

“I think Coach (Chuck) Pagano and the attitude he sets is to play hard for 60 minutes and overtime, if necessary, and we all buy into it.’’

(Continued on page 2)

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