INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tom Brady got his revenge — with a little help from the Colts.
He exposed holes in the defense, allowed his teammates to do most of the heavy lifting and let Indianapolis take the air out of its own building with a bone-headed fake punt that turned the game.
Brady threw for 312 yards, three touchdowns and led the Patriots to two second-half scores in a 34-27 victory Sunday night in the “Deflategate” rematch.
It was a strange night.
In a series defined by wild games and crazy plays, Indy’s awful punt might have been the worst of the worst. With most of the offensive line set up near the right sideline, Indy snapped the ball to Colt Anderson, who was immediately tackled for a 1-yard loss that gave the Patriots the ball at the Colts 35.
Six plays later, Brady got free from the pass rush and hooked up with LeGarrette Blount for an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots a 34-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“The whole idea there was on fourth-and-3 or less, shift our alignment to where you either catch them misaligned, they try to sub some people in, catch them with 12 men on the field and if you get a certain look, you can make a play,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Alignment-wise we weren’t lined up correctly, and then a communication problem on the snap. I take responsibility for that.”
Indy (3-3) never recovered.
New England has won seven straight over its longtime rival and is 5-0 for the first time since its 16-0 season in 2007.
While Brady wasn’t perfect — he threw his first interception of the season — he was pretty darn good again. Brady finished 23 of 37 in the first meeting since January’s AFC title, which ultimately led to allegations of improperly inflated balls, months of investigation and eventually a four-game suspension that was nullified in court.
Had the suspension been upheld, Brady would have made his season debut in front of a hostile Indianapolis crowd.
Instead, Colts fans, who booed heartily when Brady first appeared at Lucas Oil Stadium, roared even louder when Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck returned after missing two games with an injured right shoulder. Luck was 30 of 50 for 312 yards with three touchdowns and most importantly, no turnovers.
New England players didn’t care about the crowd or the significance.
“I look at it just like any other win,” Blount said after running for one touchdown and catching the first of his career. “It feels good no matter who we’re playing.”
The game didn’t go the way anyone expected, though.
New England got away from its strong running game and kept the ball in Brady’s hands.
But the Colts were the more aggressive team. They scored a touchdown on the opening series by going for it on fourth-and-1. They tried a first-half onside kick. They continued to take shots down the field, and they refused to back down from the defending Super Bowl champs
The combination turned what many expected to be a blowout into one of this season’s most entertaining games — until the fake punt.
“I saw the formation, and I wasn’t sure what was going on,” New England defensive lineman Chandler Jones said. “But it was great awareness by our special teams.”
It was the game everyone wanted to see in last season’s AFC championship game, a 38-point rout that spawned the “Deflategate” controversy.
Indy led 21-20 at halftime, but in the second half, Brady took control.
He threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to the wide-open Rob Gronkowski to make it 27-21 early in the third quarter, and followed Indy’s mistake with the scoring pass to Blount to seal it.