Blount has 3 TD runs, Patriots lead Colts 21-12

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New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an AFC divisional NFL playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — LeGarrette Blount had three 2-yard touchdown runs, and the New England Patriots led the Indianapolis Colts 21-12 at halftime in a rainy AFC divisional round playoff game Saturday night.

On the Colts' third play from scrimmage — third-and-2 from their 28 — Andrew Luck threw a short pass for LaVon Brazill that Alfonzo Dennard got his hands on and snatched from the receiver. Dennard ran down the right sideline before stepping out of bounds at the 2, the first of two first-half interceptions thrown by Luck.

Tom Brady & Co. wasted no time getting on the scoreboard with a handoff to Blount, who went off left tackle and into the end zone to give New England (12-4) the lead 1:19 into the game.

Blount scored on another 2-yard run to cap the Patriots' second drive, putting New England up 14-0 midway through the opening quarter. It marked the third straight game that Blount has run for at least two touchdowns.

Brady completed four passes for 57 yards on the 10-play drive, becoming the first NFL quarterback to throw for over 6,000 yards in the postseason.

The Colts (12-5) bounced back with an impressive drive of their own, capped by Brazill's 38-yard touchdown catch in stride over the hands of Dennard to cut it to 14-7 with 4:35 left in the first quarter. Luck completed third-down passes of 9 yards to Coby Fleener on third-and-3 and 22 yards to Griff Whalen to set up the score.

The Colts' Adam Vinatieri, a former Patriots star, set the NFL mark with his 59th career playoff extra point after Brazill's score.

Blount got his third TD run early in the second quarter, capping a 14-play, 75-yard drive that put the Patriots ahead 21-7. The three rushing scores tied a franchise mark set by Curtis Martin against Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, 1997.

New England converted three third downs on the drive that was sparked by Julian Edelman's 27-yard catch-and-run during which he broke at least three tackles to get into Colts territory.

Vinatieri's 36-yard field goal with 5:35 left before halftime cut the Patriots' lead to 21-10.

The Colts made it 21-12 on a safety with 2:12 remaining in the second quarter on a bizarre play that might have been affected by the slick conditions. After a soaking rain drenched the area for most of the day, there was a steady mist at kickoff that continued throughout the game with temperatures an unseasonably warm 57 degrees.

Danny Aiken's snap to rookie punter Ryan Allen floated way over Allen's head on fourth-and-2 from the Patriots 49. Allen chased the ball and recovered it near the 3, but had it knocked out of his hands by Andy Studebaker, who injured his neck on the play. The Colts' Jeris Pendleton went for the loose ball, but inadvertently slapped it out of the end zone.

Officials ruled the play a safety, with fumbles on both Aiken and Allen.

Allen was taken to the locker room after the play with an apparent injury; the Patriots didn't immediately announce details. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was forced into punting duties, booting a 53-yarder shortly before halftime.

The winner advances to play the winner of Sunday's matchup between San Diego and Denver in the AFC championship game next Sunday.

The Colts were coming off a stunning 45-44 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend in which they overcame a 38-10 third-quarter deficit in the wild-card game for the second-biggest comeback victory in NFL playoffs history.

The Patriots, who had a first-round bye and entered 8-0 at home this season, were trying to become the first team since the Philadelphia Eagles to reach at least three consecutive conference championship games. Philadelphia reached four straight in the NFC from 2001-04.

The Colts were without wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who did not practice all week because of a hamstring injury. Anticipating his absence, Indianapolis signed former New England receiver Deion Branch to help fill the void, but he was inactive for the game.


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