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Sports

January 6, 2014

Patriots set to face Colts in AFC divisional round

FOXBOROUGH — The bye week is over.

Now the New England Patriots can focus on a major challenge.

How can they stop Andrew Luck?

The quarterback who brought Indianapolis back from a 28-point, third-quarter deficit to a 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC wild-card game Saturday will lead the Colts into Gillette Stadium for a divisional-round game Saturday night.

“There’s no question he’s a complete football player and one of the top quarterbacks in this league already,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said yesterday.

“He has a great career in front of him, but I think he’s already established himself as a very poised and talented player that can do a lot of things to beat you.”

The second-seeded Patriots (12-4) would have faced third-seeded Cincinnati had the Bengals won yesterday. But they lost to the sixth-seeded San Diego Chargers 27-10. So the fourth-seeded Colts (12-5) will play in Foxborough for the second straight season.

Last season, in Luck’s 10th game as a pro, he threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in a 59-24 loss. He had his fourth worst passer rating of that season.

But Luck has more experience now and an impressive playoff win on his record.

And his teammates kept fighting despite their huge deficit against Kansas City.

“They had a couple losses that they bounced right back from with big wins the following week,” Belichick said. “I think they’ve shown a lot of mental toughness. (Saturday’s) game was about as good as it gets. To be that far behind in the third quarter, it didn’t look too good for them and all (of) the sudden in a hurry you could feel them coming back, or at least I could.”

The Patriots’ secondary has been hobbled by injuries. Two starters, safety Devin McCourty and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, missed the 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills that ended the regular season. And cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington have been playing hurt.

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