FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Tom Brady fired three touchdown passes and LeGarrette Blount rumbled for three more as the New England Patriots demolished the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 on Sunday to book their sixth trip to the Super Bowl in 14 years.
The Patriots head to Arizona for the Feb. 1 National Football League showcase where they will face the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, who clinched their return with a heart-pounding 28-22 overtime comeback win over the Green Bay Packers.
Seattle will be bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since Brady took the Patriots to consecutive titles in 2004 and 2005.
The rout gives the Patriots an eighth Super Bowl appearance, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys for the most in league history.
While the NFC championship was heavy with drama, there was no edge-of-your-seat excitement at rainy Gillette Stadium as the Patriots charged to a 14-0 first-quarter lead and never were threatened, giving coach Bill Belichick his 21st career playoff victory to break the record he shared with Tom Landry.
Brady, who had already thrown more post-season touchdowns than any quarterback, added a hat-trick to his total, hitting James Develin, Nate Solder and favorite target Rob Gronkowski to bring his career tally to 50.
“We put a lot of work in this year, worked our tails off to get to this point, it’s nice to close the deal,” said Brady. “We’ve got one more to go. I know we’ve had some ups and downs this year but right now we are up baby and we’re going to try to stay up for one more game.”
As Brady was picking apart the Colts secondary, Blount was grinding it out on the ground, rushing for 148 yards on 30 carries including touchdowns of one, 13 and two yards.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who led the NFL in touchdown passes this season with 40, could not manage any against a swarming New England defense.
Luck, now 0-4 against the Patriots since he entered the league as the number one overall pick in the 2012 draft, completed just 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards and was picked off twice.
Zurlon Tipton had Indianapolis’s lone score on a one-yard run in the second quarter.
“It’s a disappointing loss, nobody wants to end their season that way but we’ll learn from this,” said Colts coach Chuck Pagano. “We took another step forward in the right direction.
“We were playing good football, coming off a big win and we ran into a buzz saw. They beat us in every phase of the game.”
For all their success, Brady and his bunch are still hungry having gone 10 years since their 2005 Super Bowl triumph, when New England won a third title in a four-year span.
Since then, they have been unable to add to their Super Bowl resume losing close encounters to the New York Giants in 2008 and 2012.
Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto,; Editing by Peter Rutherford/Gene Cherry