New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

Patriots Get Three Scores From Gronkowski in 31-24 Win Over Colts

The Patriots had a huge lead Sunday into the fourth quarter, but in the end had to sweat out a 31-24 win over a team in the Colts that had yet to win a game in 2011.

Rob Gronkowski had a banner day for the Pats, grabbing two touchdown passes and running for another score. The 2010 second-rounder tied Vernon Davis (2009) and Antonio Gates (2004) for the league’s single-season record for receiving touchdowns at his position with 13.

Gronkowski appeared to surpass the mark in the third quarter when he caught a pass from Tom Brady in the right flat and raced into the end zone from the Indianapolis two-yard line to put New England up 31-3. However, the play wound up being a rushing TD for Gronkowski after it was changed to a lateral.

Brady had 293 yards on 29-of-38 passing for AFC-East leading New England (9-3), while Wes Welker had 11 receptions for 114 yards.

Making his first start since December 28, 2008 with Detroit, Dan Orlovsky connected on 30-of-37 throws for 353 yards with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and an interception for the Colts, who dropped to 0-12 for the first time since 1986, when they lost their first 13 games.

Donald Brown scored Indy’s first touchdown of the game on a five-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Later, Orlovsky found Pierre Garcon for a pair of touchdowns, the latter coming with 36 seconds remaining. The comeback bid ended when New England recovered an onside kick.

Despite the Colts’ record, the game was a struggle early on for the Patriots, who held the ball for only three-plus minutes in the first quarter. They did produce points on a 39-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

Indianapolis, though, put together an impressive second drive that consisted of 19 plays and were on the doorstep to begin the second quarter. The Orlovsky-led offense converted four first downs on a drive that ate up more than 10 minutes of the clock and saw the Colts advance to the goal line. A false start penalty on third down moved the ball back to the six and Indy was forced to settle for a 31-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal after Rob Ninkovich sacked Orlovsky.

The Patriots were forced to punt again, but responded with a 16-play scoring drive on their next possession. Brady threw a 12-yard pass to Chad Ochocinco on third down from the Indy 41 that drew a big cheer from the fans. Brady then found Welker for 18 yards on third-and-15 from the 34, setting up an 11-yard touchdown reception by Gronkowski.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis tacked on a one-yard TD run for New England with 13 seconds left in the first half.

The rout was on when Brady opened the third quarter by throwing a 21-yard TD pass to Gronkowski. Delone Carter fumbled the ball away on the ensuing Indy drive, and the turnover led to Gronkowski’s first career rushing TD.

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