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(Sunday, December 4th)
Final Score: New England 31, Indianapolis 24
Foxboro, MA (Sports Network) - He may be just 22 years young, but Rob Gronkowski is fast becoming the best tight end in the NFL, if he's not already.
Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes and ran for another score, as the New England Patriots beat the lowly Indianapolis Colts, 31-24, at Gillette Stadium.
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.
"He played pretty well," Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell said about Orlovsky. "Obviously, that's one thing that is quite evident and he certainly, I think, did a nice job all around -- in the running game and in the passing game and just moving the ball. He was very poised out there. You're going to see him again."
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.
"We've obviously got to do a better job of finishing the game. That was disappointing, but we'll work on that," said New England head coach Bill Belichick.
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.
Brady moved past Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas (119) for the sixth-most regular- season victories by a starting quarterback in NFL history...Brady now has 291 career TD passes, tying him with Warren Moon for sixth place all-time in league annals...Brady has thrown a touchdown pass in 28 straight regular- season games, extending his own franchise record...Brady became the sixth quarterback in NFL history to have 30-plus TD passes in at least three seasons...Welker (5,793) surpassed Irving Fryar for third place on the Patriots' all-time receiving yards list...Garcon made nine catches for 150 yards.
12/04 18:20:58 ET