Patriots D-line vs. Colts O-line
The Patriots defensive line lost two of its essential pieces for the season in Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, but the rookie tandem of tackles Chris Jones and Joe Vellano helped pick up the slack in the middle. Sophomore defensive end Chandler Jones has a phenomenal year, recording 11.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, while Rob Ninkovich, who was named a team captain halfway through the season, had eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries of his own. The Patriots sacked Andrew Luck once in their 2012 meeting.
The Colts offensive line provided very good protection for Luck in his second season, allowing the sophomore out of Stanford to be sacked just 32 times, fifth-lowest in the NFL. They couldn’t help the running game, though, as early-season acquisition Trent Richardson couldn’t get anything going, and season-ending injuries to Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw left the running corps even weaker. The Colts O-line held up well in the incredible comeback win over the Chiefs in the wild-card round, allowing Luck to be sacked just once and giving him the chance to outscore the Chiefs, 35-6, over the final 28 minutes of the game.