After Week 4 this season, the idea was introduced that the New England Patriots had a quarterback controversy and the franchise's long run of success might be ending.
The Patriots had been thumped by the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Tom Brady wasn't playing well and some wondered whether rookie Jimmy Garoppolo's time was arriving before anyone expected.
Now, Brady will become the first quarterback to start in six Super Bowls.
New England cruised past the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, Sunday at Gillette Stadium in the AFC championship game.
LeGarrette Blount rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns, and Brady passed for three touchdowns to help put the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 1 at Glendale, Ariz.
The Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005. Now, the question is whether Brady, whose 20 playoff victories are the most in NFL history, can join Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with four Super Bowl rings.
"It's hard to compare year to year," Brady said. "This team is going to have to win a very big game to leave our legacy."
What about the talk that he was headed downhill rapidly after the team's 2-2 start?
"I talked about that before," Brady said. "There is a lot of motivation for a lot of different reasons. It's important not to ride the roller coaster."
Brady, 37, won the first 10 playoff starts of his career. and this could be his last shot at winning another Super Bowl.
Against the Colts, the Patriots went with a heavy dose of extra linemen to run the ball, similar to the formula they used in a 42-20 victory at Indianapolis in Week 11.
Coach Bill Belichick used linemen who were eligible to catch passes, as he did the previous week against the Baltimore Ravens, and Brady threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Nate Solder to put New England ahead, 24-7, in the third quarter.
Blount had 30 carries, a playoff record for the Patriots.
"He made some great cuts in not good conditions," Belichick said. "There were several times he took nothing and turned it into something."
While Brady, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards, was on his game, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck struggled. He completed only 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards and had two passes intercepted. He is 0-4 against the Patriots in his three-year career.
It was a troublesome week for the Colts. Linebacker Josh McNary was arrested and charged with rape. Running back Trent Richardson missed a walk-through before the team departed Indianapolis and was left behind. Richardson said it was for personal reasons. Then, reserve offensive tackle Xavier Nixon missed the charter flight.
None of those distractions had anything to do with a game that was such a blowout. The Colts couldn't stop Blount and were unable to pressure Brady.
The story lines for Super Bowl XLIX are terrific. The Seahawks will try to become the first team to repeat as champion since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004 and Brady and the Patriots will try to win another one.