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NFL Notes: Luck falls short against Patriots

Despite two seasons full of fourth-quarter comebacks, Andrew Luck ‘12 and the Indianapolis Colts sputtered late in the game this time around and fell to the Patriots 43-22. The loss eliminated the Colts from the playoffs and sent the Patriots on to the AFC championship game.

“We had our chances, man, to make plays and get our offense back on the field,” said Colts safety Antoine Bethea about the prolific Patriots offense. “Last game, we were able to do that, but it was a great quarterback, a great offense and a great team we were facing.”

On just the second play of the game, Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, the third cousin of Michigan State’s all-American cornerback and Jim Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard, intercepted Andrew Luck’s pass and returned it to the Colts 1-yard line. Eight minutes and two touchdowns later, the Colts faced yet another hole as they trailed the Patriots 14-0.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is one of the last Stanford players remaining in the NFL playoffs after the Seahawks beat the Saints 23-15. (ASDF)

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman ’10 (above) is one of the few Stanford players remaining in the NFL playoffs after the Seahawks beat the Saints 23-15 to advance to the NFC championship game. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

As Luck and the Colts have done all season long, they fought back. A spectacular 38-yard throw and catch between Luck and receiver LaVon Brazill down the sideline on the subsequent drive narrowed the deficit to 14-7.

The Patriots continued to press and took another 14-point lead midway through the third quarter when running back Stevan Ridley punched in the touchdown from 3 yards out. Another touchdown pass from Luck to Brazill brought the Colts within seven at 29-22 heading to the fourth quarter.

While the script seemed to be written for another comeback, two late Luck interceptions and the furious power of Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount doomed the Colts as they watched the Patriots pull away to victory with two fourth quarter touchdowns.

Andrew Luck finished the game 20-for-41 with 331 yards passing, two touchdowns and four interceptions. Luck’s playoff run this year saw him throw seven interceptions, only two fewer than his total from the entire regular season.

“I’m just disappointed in myself,” Luck said. “I can’t commit that many turnovers and have a chance to win against a great team like this.”

Tight end Coby Fleener ‘11 and wideout Griff Whalen ‘12 finished with six catches for 74 yards and five catches for 57 yards respectively. Both players had career-best years in their second seasons in the league as they established themselves as pivotal performers on the Colts roster.

While the season had a disappointing end, Luck led the Colts to a second 11-5 finish only two years removed from the Colts’ 2-14 season. He also answered lingering questions from his rookie year about his accuracy after halving his interception total from his first season and finishing with a 60.2 percent completion rate during the regular season.

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Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman ’10 recorded five tackles as the Seahawks exorcised their divisional-round demons and advanced to the NFC Championship Game after losing in the divisional round in their last four playoff appearances. The Seahawks defeated the Saints 23-15 and will host the 49ers next weekend with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of football and baseball for KZSU. Michael is a senior from Rancho Santa Margarita, California majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.