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Tom Brady OK with being a 'game manager' with strong ground game

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hands off

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hands off the ball against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. (Jan. 11, 2014) Credit: Getty

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Tom Brady happily accepted the label.

He didn't mind being a spectator to LeGarrette Blount's record-breaking performance Saturday. Nor did Brady mind fulfilling other responsibilities on the field, such as at holder after Patriots punter Ryan Allen suffered a shoulder injury.

Asked how it felt to be just "a game manager" in the Patriots' 43-22 AFC divisional playoff win over the Colts, Brady just smiled.

"It was good," he said after the game. "We keep playing like that, the way our defense is getting the ball for us, and really what we've done the last three or four weeks, the running game has just been awesome. It's helped everything out.

"It makes it easy when you hand it off and it goes 70 yards for a touchdown," Brady said, referring to Blount, who ran for 166 yards and set a franchise record for most rushing touchdowns (four) in a regular-season or playoff game. "That's a great feeling and great way to score. Hopefully, we keep doing it. Hopefully, we can do it next week, too."

The Patriots advanced to the AFC Championship Game for the third straight season and will play in Denver on Sunday.

Against Indianapolis, the Patriots showed they can beat their opponents with more than just Brady under center. But make no mistake: he's a future Hall of Famer for a reason.

Brady has thrown 42 postseason touchdown passes, third in NFL history behind Joe Montana (45) and Brett Favre (44), and leads all quarterbacks with 566 postseason completions.

Brady also has more postseason starts (25) than any other NFL quarterback and is the first signal-caller in the league to pass the 6,000-yard plateau in the postseason.

Brady, however, didn't throw for a touchdown against the Colts. He was 13-for-25 for 198 yards with no interceptions.

Perhaps in years past, those statistics might not have been enough to guarantee a double-digit playoff victory for the Patriots. But now they have a proven running game (234 yards on 46 carries Saturday night) built to carry the load. And that's particularly important at this time of the year, the players said.

"Absolutely," said running back Stevan Ridley, who had two of the team's six rushing TDs on Saturday, tying the second-best rushing TD performance in NFL postseason history. "I think you have to have defense, you have to have a running game, and you also have to have the offense that's playing together.

"Our team is really working together. I mean, this is a total team effort offensively, and we're doing a great job of moving the ball."

Coach Bill Belichick said the key to their success in the running game is simple.

"It's sticking with it," he said before referencing Blount's 73-yard score that broke the game open at 36-22 early in the fourth quarter. "We ran some of the same plays and we executed them better.

"If you can get the guy through the line of scrimmage and then break a tackle or make a guy miss, that's where you get the long ones. Good backs do that. They make some of those yards on their own -- step to the line and the backs and the tight ends get them started, get them some space and let them do their thing."

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