The Indianapolis Colts came back from 28 points down to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 45-44 in a wild start to the NFL postseason.
ESPN's Jay Harris summed up the excitement with this tweet:
This game was light on defense but heavy on big plays from both sides. Andrew Luck led the way for the Colts with 443 passing yards and five total touchdowns, although he also had three interceptions in the win.
His biggest play was a 64-yard touchdown to T.Y. Hilton with about four minutes left to give the Colts the lead and eventually the victory.
Meanwhile, Alex Smith was almost as impressive for the losing side as he finished with 378 passing yards and four touchdowns while adding 57 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, he could not close things out with the team's biggest offensive weapon, Jamaal Charles, sidelined after sustaining a concussion early in the game, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald:
Jamaal Charles is out for the game with a concussion.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) January 4, 2014
The team also saw Knile Davis, Donnie Avery, Brandon Flowers, Justin Houston and others go down with various injuries during the contest. These issues and a few lucky bounces allowed the Colts back into the game in a crazy back-and-forth contest that will be remembered for years.
Kansas City sent a message with the opening drive of the game by scoring a touchdown on a 15-play, 82-yard drive. However, Luck was not going to be outdone and answered right back by going 7-for-7 and a touchdown on the Colts' first drive.
However, the next few possessions featured a stretch of dominance from the Chiefs as Smith continued to make plays with both his arm and his legs. He helped put the team up 17-7 with a 79-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery.
After a Trent Richardson fumble, Smith threw his third touchdown pass of the day after an impressive scramble around the goal line.
By halftime, the Chiefs were able to build up an impressive 31-10 lead. Jeremy Lundblad of ESPN provided a look at how impressive this was:
The Chiefs' 31 points are tied for the most EVER at halftime of a road playoff game— Jeremy Lundblad (@JLundbladESPN) January 4, 2014
Shortly into the second half, Knile Davis put Kansas City up 38-10 with his second score of the day. At this point, it seemed like everyone not on the Colts sideline believed the game was over. However, things were just getting started at Lucas Oil Stadium.
After the Colts finally got their second touchdown on a Donald Brown run, Pro Bowl linebacker Robert Mathis came through with a big sack that led to a fumble. ESPN noted how the play could be a big turning point in the game:
Not so fast! The @Colts score 14 unanswered after a HUGE forced fumble by Robert Mathis! We have a ball game!— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 4, 2014
Indianapolis eventually cut the lead to 41-31 on a Coby Fleener touchdown, followed by an improbable score by Luck off a fumble to make it 41-38 early in the fourth quarter.
Kansas City added on a field goal, but the Colts just needed a few more plays before Luck connected with Hilton on an incredible 64-yard touchdown play to give them a 45-44 lead. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith represented most of America with his assessment:
This is absolutely unbelievable. What a comeback. Luck is a baaaaaadddd young man. And Hilton isn't shabby, eithr— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 5, 2014
Although the Chiefs had a chance to retake the lead in the final minutes, a failed fourth-down conversion allowed the Colts to come away with the incredible win.
The Colts showed the scene in the locker room after the game via Instagram:
This continues a poor stretch of postseason play for the Chiefs, as noted by this interesting ESPN stat:
The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game (1/16/94), Joe Montana was their QB and Marcus Allen was their RB.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 4, 2014
On the other side, Luck gets his first of what will likely be many playoff wins in a promising career. The Colts will travel to face either the Denver Broncos or the New England Patriots in the next round.
Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs: A
The term "game manager" is often thrown around as a description for Alex Smith. With many of his teammates going down with injuries, the quarterback was far from that on Saturday.
Smith made excellent throws all game and also helped himself with some surprising mobility to help put the Chiefs in a position to win. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com was one of many who were impressed with the performance:
I've seen Alex Smith play good football over the last few years but I don't think I've ever seen him play at this level.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 4, 2014
Although he could not pull out a win, he deserves loads of praise for his effort in this game.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: A
As previously noted, the Chiefs ran out of playmakers due to injuries. However, Dwayne Bowe was able to stay on the field and make as much of an impact as he has all season for the Chiefs.
The veteran receiver finished with eight catches for 150 yards and a touchdown. Considering his season high was 70 receiving yards this season, it is clear that this was an unexpected performance.
Although he was unable to get his feet in bounds on the final offensive play, he still was a big reason the Chiefs were able to score 44 points in this game against a quality defense.
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts: A-
This was far from Luck's best game as a quarterback. He made a number of mistakes and threw three interceptions, although not all of them were his fault.
However, the young player was able to keep a short memory and come back with a big play almost every time his team needed it. His final touchdown pass is something that will probably be on his career highlight reel for years to come.
Additionally, he proved that he can never be counted out in a game regardless of the score.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts: A+
When Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL earlier in the year, T.Y. Hilton was asked to step up and become the No. 1 receiver. He proved he has that ability with a fantastic performance against the Chiefs.
The speedster caught 13 passes for 224 yards plus two touchdowns in the game. Even when Luck was obviously throwing to his top target, Hilton was able to find a way to get open and make a catch.
His biggest play came with just over four minutes left as he caught the 64-yard pass to put the Colts up for the first time in the game. Hilton is clearly ready to become one of the top players in the NFL at his position.
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