Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Colts' 45 just barely enough

Outgun Chiefs by single point with frantic comeback in AFC wild-card

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Chuck Pagano couldn't believe his eyes. Andrew Luck couldn't believe his ears. Colts fans couldn't believe the scoreboard, and the Kansas City Chiefs couldn't believe their incredibly bad luck.

It seemed unfathomable.

On a day Luck appeared to be pressing and, at times, as bad as he ever has while putting Indianapolis in a 28-point deficit, the Colts quarterback somehow turned things around. He threw three of his four touchdowns in the second half, scored on a fumble return and connected with a wide-open T.Y. Hilton on a 64-yard TD pass to give the Colts an improbable 45-44 wild-card victory Saturday.

"One for the ages," said Pagano, Indianapolis' coach. "I think somebody said that it was the second-largest comeback or whatever in the history of whatever. I guess 21 wasn't large enough at half, so we thought we've give them another seven, you know, just to make it interesting."

Actually, rallying from 28 down made the latest of Luck's amazing comebacks one to remember.

Indianapolis (12-5) became only the second playoff team to rally from that big a deficit, according to STATS. Buffalo rallied from 32 points to beat Houston 41-38 in January 1993, though that one required overtime.

The Colts, winners of four straight, travel to either Denver or New England next weekend for the divisional round.

Luck was an incredible mix of good and bad, finishing 29 of 45 for 443 yards, the second-highest yardage total in franchise history for a playoff game. He also matched his career high with three interceptions. Hilton broke franchise playoff records with 13 catches and 224 yards, and also caught two TDs.

But it was the way Indy won that made it stunning.

Luck played angry and frantic, turning a steady stream of halftime boos into a chorus of cheers.

"I don't know if it ever crossed my mind on how it would be remembered," Luck said after winning his first playoff game four seasons quicker than it took his predecessor, Peyton Manning. "When I took a knee, and you feel the buzz and the energy of the crowd and see your teammates' faces, that makes it special."

For Kansas City, it was another brief, miserable post-season appearance.

The Chiefs (11-6) finished their remarkable turnaround season with three straight losses and an eighth straight post-season defeat -- none more shocking than this one. The eight consecutive losses broke a tie with the Detroit Lions for the longest playoff skid.

"Anytime you're leading like that and then have them battle back and then take it, and you end up losing by a point, it's tough, a tough pill to swallow," Chiefs QB Alex Smith said.

Things appeared bleak with Indy trailing 31-10 at halftime, and they got worse when Luck's first pass of the second half was picked off and returned to the Indy 18. Three plays later, Smith made it 38-10.

But Luck had plenty of time to make the jaw-dropping rally.

With Indy going no-huddle, Luck started throwing at will.

"It seemed surreal, being down like we were down..." Pagano said. "Thinking about how good tomorrow's going to be, snow or no snow, I don't really care."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2014 B7

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