FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Rain or shine, Bill Belichick looks like he’s forever standing in a rainstorm. He acted the part Sunday both before and during the actual deluge, stalking the Patriots sideline with a navy hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head, white tube socks halfway up his ankles and a perfectly humorless expression.
How then, did Belichick’s team — which earned a Super Bowl berth Sunday night with a 45-7 pasting of the Colts at Gillette Stadium — become the cheekiest in football?
“I don’t think we’re trying to confuse anybody,” fullback James Develin said. “It’s just trying to keep them on their toes and just trying to be all kinds of crazy out there.
“We got guys lining up all over the place. It’s fun.”
Belichick recorded his NFL-record 21st postseason win Sunday and tied Don Shula with his sixth conference title. Having Tom Brady helps. But, alongside offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Belichick is riding a string of creative play calling.
One week after infuriating the Ravens’ John Harbaugh with their ineligible-receiver shenanigans, the Patriots unabashedly did it again Sunday. Pass-catchers reported as ineligible and linemen jogged off the field.
One week after a double pass turned into a 51-yard score, a Patriots left tackle caught a touchdown Sunday.
Nate Solder lined up at his regular spot in the third quarter, blocked a man toward the inside and released. He finished his first career catch by tumbling into the end zone for a 16-yard score.
“The stars were aligned,” Solder said. “It was awesome.”
Solder played tight end as a freshman at Colorado, Brady said with a smile.
“So, I don’t know,” Brady said. “Maybe we have more tricks up our sleeve.”
Develin’s first-ever touchdown catch, a 1-yarder, gave the Patriots a first-quarter 14-0 lead. Develin played defensive end at Brown and earned a mechanical engineering degree there, but decided to play for the AFL’s Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz and UFL’s Florida Tuskers out of college.
“He’s always trying to get the team ready,” Develin said of Belichick. “And always trying to prepare us for whatever we may need to get the win.”
Sometimes, that means running LeGarrette Blount 30 times. Two months after walking off the Steelers sideline, being released and clearing waivers, he ran for 148 yards and three scores Sunday.
It was Blount’s most since, in last year’s stint with the Patriots, he had 24 carries for 166 yards to beat the Colts in the playoffs.
Brady orchestrated the offense, marching for a score after Josh Cribbs’ muffed first-quarter punt and, after the next drive, Adam Vinatieri’s missed 51-yard field goal.
Up 17-7 at the half, Brady threw two third-quarter touchdowns. Blount’s 13-yard run came one play after Darrelle Revis’ interception of Andrew Luck, who finished with 126 passing yards and a 23.0 passer rating.
Brady completed 23-of-35 pass attempts for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m so thankful that he’s our quarterback,” Belichick said. “There’s nobody I’d rather have.”
No one has ever thrown for more postseason touchdowns, yards or completions — or won more than Brady’s 20 games.
His sixth career Super Bowl appearance — against the Seahawks — will set a record for quarterbacks.
“This one is, (we’re) going to have to win a very important game to kind of leave our legacy,” Brady said. “So we have two weeks to prepare for it.”