(Reuters) - Unheralded New England running back Jonas Gray scored four touchdowns to spark the Patriots to a 42-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
In what had been billed as a showdown between marquee quarterbacks Tom Brady and Andrew Luck, Gray stole the show with 199 rushing yards and the first scores of his career.
The 24-year-old was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and had appeared in just three previous games for New England this season before his breakout performance.
Gray said he took his cue from the leaders in the Patriots locker room.
“All (I) do is follow, and if you follow their lead they’ll rely on you, and they’ll trust you,” Gray told reporters after finishing with 38 carries.
“We got a lot of positive gains. If it’s working don’t change it up.”
It was the sixth straight win for the Patriots (8-2), who took sole possession of first place in the AFC after the Denver Broncos (7-3) lost earlier in the day. The Patriots’ rushing attack took the pressure off of Brady, who shook off two first-half interceptions to finish with 257 yards passing and two touchdowns.
The Patriots quarterback said each opponent presented different kinds of problems and the key to winning was to adapt week by week.
“You have to be able to find different ways to win depending on matchups,” Brady said. “Tonight we showed great toughness on both sides. It was a great road win against a good football team.”
Luck threw for 303 yards with two scores and one interception for hosts Indianapolis, who were playing catch-up for most of the game.
New England led 14-10 at the half and scored on the opening drive of the third quarter to pad their lead to 14.
The Colts twice pulled within eight during the second half but Gray rumbled over for a one-yard touchdown midway through the fourth, and tight end Rob Gronkowski scored on a 26-yard touchdown reception two minutes later to put the game away.
The Colts, who fell to 6-4 but remain top of the AFC South, a game ahead of Houston (5-5), also lost running back Ahmad Bradshaw in the second half with a leg injury.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford