Pats hold off Colts
Rob Gronkowski scored three more touchdowns. Chances are the New England Patriots are thinking more about the three touchdowns they allowed in the fourth quarter.
Against the winless Colts, no less.
The Patriots needed Deion Branch to recover an onside kick in the final minute to hold off Indianapolis 31-24 on Sunday.
Trailing 31-3, the Colts rallied with a touchdown run by Donald Brown and two scoring passes from Dan Orlovsky to Pierre Garcon, the last with 36 seconds to go.
Tom Brady took a knee on the final play to complete the victory.
The Patriots (9-3) have won four straight and are tied for the AFC’s best record. Indianapolis (0-12) must beat Baltimore, Tennessee, Houston or Jacksonville to avoid becoming the second NFL team to go 0-16.
With two touchdowns passing, both to Gronkowski, Brady overtook Johnny Unitas and tied Warren Moon for sixth place in NFL history with 291 during the regular season. Brady was 29 of 38 for 293 yards.
Gronkowski has 13 touchdown catches, tying San Diego’s Antonio Gates in 2004 and San Francisco’s Vernon Davis in 2009 for most by a tight end in a regular season. He originally was given another touchdown catch, but that was changed to a lateral on which he ran 2 yards for the 31-3 lead.
The Patriots entered the game as three-touchdown favorites with the teams, from different divisions, meeting for the ninth straight season.
Orlovsky started in place of the ineffective Curtis Painter. He completed 30 of 37 for 353 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Then Brady got the offense rolling as New England scored touchdowns on its next four possessions, taking a 31-3 lead late in the third quarter. Wes Welker caught 11 passes for 114 yards, increasing his NFL-leading total to 93 receptions.
Trailing 3-0, Orlovsky led a 19-play drive lasting 10:19. The Colts had first-and-goal at the 1, but a run for no gain, an incompletion, a false-start penalty and a sack forced them to settle for Adam Vinatieri’s field goal.
New England took command by scoring twice in the last three minutes of the first half on Brady’s 11-yard pass to Gronkowski and BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 1-yard run for a 17- 3 lead.
The Patriots got the ball to start the third quarter and Brady passed on each of the seven plays, completing all of them to drive 77 yards, ending with a 21-yard touchdown to Gronkowski. After a fumble recovery, Gronkowski scored again when he went in motion, took a toss from Brady and ran untouched into the right side of the end zone. Gronkowski finished with five catches for 64 yards.
Notes — Brady has thrown for 30 touchdowns, becoming the sixth player in NFL history to do that at least three times.