FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — LeGarrette Blount ran the Patriots into their third straight AFC championship game.
The 250-pound back had four touchdown runs and New England kept Andrew Luck from a second straight comeback victory, beating the Indianapolis Colts 43-22 on Saturday night.
Blount scored on three 2-yard runs in the first half, then burst through the right side of the line and rambled 73 yards into the end zone, where he placed the ball gently on the ground made soggy by a game-long rain. He finished with 166 yards on 24 carries.
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.
The Patriots (13-4) 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. The Colts (12-6) never led.
"It's just a great achievement," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "People have counted us out at times this year, but I think we've got a locker room full of believers."
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. And the six rushing touchdowns by the Patriots tied the 49ers' total in that game for second most in playoff history.
Blount's big rushing performance came two weeks after he ran for 189 yards and returned two kickoffs for 145 yards in a 34-20 victory over Buffalo in the regular-season finale.
"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."
Billed as a matchup between quarterbacks — long-time 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.
The Colts trailed 21-12 at halftime against the Patriots and cut it to 29-22 on a 35-yard pass to Brazill with 5:01 left in the third. The Patriots dominated the rest of the way.
Blount's first touchdown came on New England's first offensive play after Alfonzo Dennard intercepted Luck's pass and returned it 27 yards to the 2.
Blount scored again on the Patriots' second series in which Brady completed all four of his passes.
But Luck responded with a seven-play, 80-yard drive capped by his 38-yard touchdown pass to Brazill, who was guarded closely by Dennard as he made the catch on the left side a few yards from the end zone. Former Patriot Adam Vinatieri set an NFL record with his 59th post-season extra point, making it 14-7.
Blount got his third touchdown with 4:06 gone in the second quarter on a drive in which the Patriots converted all four of their third downs.
Vinatieri cut it to 21-10 with a 36-yard field goal 5:35 before halftime.
The Colts got a break late in the first half when Danny Aiken's snap sailed over punter Ryan Allen's head, ending up in a safety. The Patriots also got a break that the Colts didn't get a touchdown out it after Allen failed to concede the safety.
Allen fumbled into the air and Indianapolis' Jeris Pendleton slapped the ball out of the end zone for the safety, cutting New England's lead to 21-12 with 2:12 remaining.
"Ryan probably wasn't sure how close they were to him. Then when he turned around they were right on top of him," Belichick said.
Allen hurt his shoulder on the play and placekicker Stephen Gostkowski punted the rest of the game. Brady took over Allen's holding duties.
Indianapolis got the ball on the free kick, but the drive ended with Luck's second interception, to linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
Vinatieri's 21-yard field goal early in the third quarter made it 21-15.
Then the Patriots took a 29-15 lead on Ridley's 3-yard touchdown run and his carry for a 2-point conversion with 6:18 to go in the third.
But Luck came right back with his second touchdown pass to Brazill.
Brady completed 13 of 25 passes for 198 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Luck was 20 for 41 for 331 yards.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
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