Our final installment of our preview of potential opponents for the Patriots in the divisional round focuses on the team that lent the Patriots a hand on Sunday in defeating the Texans to open the door for the second seed: the Indianapolis Colts.
And while Peyton Manning no longer wears a horseshoe on his helmet, this franchise is back in the thick of the Super Bowl chase, playing incredibly inspired football for their coach Chuck Pagano, who recently returned to the sideline after a battle with leukemia.
Record: 10-6, second in the AFC South
Head coach: Chuck Pagano
Wild-card round matchup: vs. Baltimore, Sunday, 1 p.m. EST (CBS)
2012 MVP: Quarterback Andrew Luck
Record since playing Patriots: 5-1
REVISITING WEEK 11 MATCHUP
Final score: Patriots 59, Colts 24 (recap here)
What it meant: The Patriots surged to 7-3 and won their fourth straight game. The teams both entered the game at 6-3, so the win broke a tie for the Patriots.
What went right for the Patriots: Despite allowing the Colts to score two first-quarter touchdowns, the game became one of the Patriots' better complementary efforts, as all three phases contributed to the scoring. Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes, Julian Edelman returned a punt for a touchdown and Aqib Talib had one of two Patriots interception returns for a touchdown in his team debut.
What didn't: The defense started slowly, as they allowed two touchdowns to the Colts in the first quarter. The pass defense made big plays, but also allowed Luck to throw for more than 300 yards. Overall, though, this game was a strong showing across the board for the Patriots.
Player of the game: Edelman. On top of his return score, Edelman also caught a touchdown from Brady. It was perhaps his best overall game as a pro.
Other notes: Despite the resounding win, the biggest storyline that emerged from this game was the broken forearm suffered by tight end Rob Gronkowski late in the fourth quarter on an extra point. Gronkowski had been dominant during earlier action, catching seven passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and would end up missing five games as a result of the injury. He returned in Week 17.