When Peyton Manning was the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, the New England Patriots loved to play keep away.

They would run the ball as much as possible to take time off the clock and keep Manning on the sideline.

It was an effective strategy that enabled the Patriots to win eight of the 12 games they played against Manning and the Colts with Tom Brady at quarterback.

It worked so well that they’re using it against Manning’s successor in Indianapolis, Andrew Luck.

In just his third season, Luck has already proven he is among the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He threw for 4,761 yards and a league-high 40 touchdown passes while adding a threat of running the ball. And he has some of the NFL’s most dangerous wide receivers in T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne, and a couple of pretty good tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

So when Luck and the Colts come into Gillette Stadium to play the Patriots for the AFC championship Sunday, you can probably expect a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount and, maybe, Jonas Gray, who missed the divisional playoff game with an ankle injury.

The Patriots have beaten Luck in three previous games, including an AFC divisional round game last year. Actually, the Patriots have routed the Colts each time, winning 59-24 in 2012, 43-22 in the playoff game and 42-20 on Nov. 16.

There are some common themes in those victories: Luck has thrown eight interceptions, the Patriots have capitalized on his mistakes, and New England has run the ball extremely well.

And in the Patriots’ offense, which relies on Tom Brady making play-action fakes to his running backs, an effective running game leads to an explosive passing game.

Brady has fared well in the three games against the Colts and Luck, with five touchdown passes and two interceptions – both of them in this season’s game – but it is the running game that stands out.

In 2012, when the Patriots put up 59 points, they rushed for 115 yards and averaged 4.6 yards, scoring two touchdowns.

In the playoff game, the Patriots scored a franchise record six rushing touchdowns while putting up 43 points. Blount rushed for a record 166 yards and four touchdowns. The Patriots averaged 5.1 yards a carry.

This year, Gray led the Patriots past the Colts in a nationally-televised game, rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-20 dismantling. That earned him a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Patriots averaged 5.4 yards a rush that game.

The Patriots expect the Colts to defend the run better this time around. As New England’s offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, said on Monday, “They’re a great example of a team getting better over the course of the year.”

Indianapolis gave up only 88 rushing yards in its 24-13 win Sunday over Denver in the divisional round. Can the Colts continue to play like that against the Patriots?

The other thing that stands out about Luck’s previous games against the Patriots. He makes mistakes and the Patriots make the Colts pay.

In his first game against New England, Luck threw three interceptions – two of which were returned for touchdowns. He also lost a fumble when sacked by Rob Ninkovich and that set up another touchdown.

The Colts led that game 14-7 when Julian Edelman returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown that tied it. Two plays after the kickoff, Aqib Talib returned an interception 59 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Patriots led 31-17 when Ninkovich sacked Luck, forced a fumble and recovered it at the Colts’ 24. The next play, Brady threw a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Alfonzo Dennard returned a Luck interception 87 yards for a score.

The playoff game last year was similar. New England led 29-22 entering the fourth when Blount broke loose for a 73-yard touchdown run. On the first play after the kickoff, Jamie Collins intercepted Luck. That led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Stevan Ridley and New England was on its way to another AFC championship game.

Luck played much better in the game this season, completing 23-of-39 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown. But with New England leading 7-3 in the second quarter, his deep pass for Wayne was intercepted by Devin McCourty. The Patriots then drove 68 yards for Gray’s second touchdown of the game and a 14-3 lead.

The Colts had no answer for Gray as New England controlled the ball for 19 minutes and 25 seconds in the second half.

After gaining only 14 yards on 13 rushes in last Saturday’s 35-31 divisional round win over Baltimore, you would think the Patriots would try to be more balanced against the Colts on Sunday.

“I think you go into every game with an idea planned,” said New England Coach Bill Belichick. “But in the end during your game, you do what you feel like you need to do to win. So we’ll do whatever we feel like we need to do to win.”

Running the ball a little more would be a start.