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NFL playoff roundup: Luck leads crazy Colts comeback

Andrew Luck

Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck (12) dives for a touchdown after recovering a fumble during the Colts' 45-44 home win over the Kansas City Chiefs in a AFC wild-card game on Saturday. AP photo

By
From page B6 | January 05, 2014 |

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts had all the Luck — at least once the second half started.

Andrew Luck threw three touchdown passes after halftime, including a 64-yarder to a wide-open T.Y. Hilton for the go-ahead score with 4:22 left, leading the Colts from a four-TD deficit to an improbable 45-44 comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in a wild-card game Saturday.

Indianapolis (12-5) became only the second team in playoff history to win after trailing by 28 or more points, according to STATS. The other: Buffalo over Houston 41-38 in overtime in January 1993. The Colts will travel to either Denver or New England next weekend for the divisional round with four straight wins.

Luck was an incredible mix of good and bad, finishing 29-of-45 for 443 yards, the second-highest total in franchise history for a playoff game, with four TDs and three interceptions. He also picked up a fumble and ran it in for a 5-yard score when the loose ball bounced back to him.

“We never panicked,” Luck said. “We took it one play at a time.”

Hilton broke a franchise playoff record with 13 catches and 224 yards, finishing with two TDs — including the winner.

Kansas City (11-6) finished its turnaround season with three straight losses, two to the Colts and an eighth straight postseason defeat — none more stunning than this one. The eight straight losses broke a tie with the Detroit Lions for the longest playoff skid.

Alex Smith was 30-of-46 for 378 yards with four TDs and no interceptions on a day he lost his top two running backs, Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, and starting receiver Donnie Avery to injuries.

But Luck got the last word with his jaw-dropping rally.

Things appeared bleak with Indy trailing 31-10 at halftime, and they looked even worse when Luck’s first pass of the second half was picked off and returned to the Indy 18. Three plays later, Smith threw a 10-yard TD pass to Davis to make it 38-10 with 13:39 left in the third quarter.

As it turned out, Luck had plenty of time to turn things around. In a big way.

With Indy in its no-huddle offense and nothing to lose, Luck started throwing the ball over the field, and Donald Brown’s 10-yard TD run made it 38-17.

Then, Luck converted a lost fumble by Smith into a 3-yard TD pass to Brown. Suddenly, it was 38-24 and the fans who were booing at halftime were in a frenzy.

The noise subsided briefly after the Chiefs turned Luck’s third interception into a 42-yard field goal, but Luck answered with a 12-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 41-31 after three quarters.

Luck was just getting started.

Eric Berry’s hit jarred the ball loose from Brown near the goal line early in the fourth, but the ball bounced right into Luck’s hands and he picked it up and squirted through the middle for to make it 41-38 with 10:38 to go.

Kansas City drove for another field goal, but this time with Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston out of the game with knee injury, Hilton broke free down the middle of the field and Luck hit him in stride behind the secondary for the 64-yard score that made it 45-44.

All the Colts had to do then was stop Kansas City on downs, and kneel down three times.

Saints 26, Eagles 24: At Philadelphia, New Orleans finally came up with the right plan for outdoor playoff football in cold weather, and it got them their first postseason road victory.

Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal, the fourth Saturday night for the recent addition to the team, won it on the final play. Drew Brees, who threw for a touchdown and guided the 34-yard drive to the winning kick, didn’t need to be a big star because the Saints’ running game and defense — along with Graham’s leg — provided the heroics.

“It’s just, man, believing in each other, ignoring what everyone else has to say,” Brees said.

New Orleans (12-5) will play at NFC top-seed Seattle next Saturday. The Saints lost there 34-7 in the regular season.

“It’s loud, it’s crazy, they’ve got a good thing going there,” Brees said of the next challenge.

Graham, signed by the Saints just over two weeks ago to replace long-time kicker Garrett Hartley, also connected from 36, 46 and 35 yards.

Brees threw for a touchdown, Mark Ingram rushed for 97 yards and another score, and the Saints’ defense slowed Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense just enough. New Orleans had been 0-5 in postseason games outside of the Big Easy since entering the league in 1967.

Philadelphia wound up 10-7 in Kelly’s first year as coach. He guided them from worst to first in the NFC East, but they were only 4-5 at home.

Nick Foles hit rookie Zach Ertz for a 3-yard touchdown with 4:54 remaining as Philadelphia rallied from a 13-point deficit to take a one-point lead. But Darren Sproles had a 39-yard kickoff return and a horse-collar tackle brought New Orleans to the Philadelphia 48. Using mostly runs, the Saints ate up the clock and set up Graham’s winner.

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