INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – To carve a niche in history required some extraordinarily poor play.
The Indianapolis Colts spent the first 30 minutes of their 2013 AFC wild-card matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs quieting their lathered-up Lucas Oil Stadium sellout crowd. A pair of turnovers and a clueless defense contributed to the Chiefs storming to a 31-10 halftime lead.
Then it actually got worse.
At the break, Chuck Pagano urged his reeling team to ignore the scoreboard and start chipping away at the daunting deficit with the opening drive of the third quarter.
Instead, Andrew Luck suffered an interception on the first play of the second half.
“It was the worst possible way to start a second half when you’re down like that,’’ Luck said at the time. “Just the worst, absolute worst, especially after all the adjustments at halftime and the time you put in to regroup.’’
The Chiefs were back in business. They capitalized on Luck’s second interception of the game and put a hammerlock on the game with Alex Smith’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Knile Davis. It was 38-10.
As Luck and the Colts prepared for their next postseason meeting with the Chiefs – Saturday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium – it was impossible not to flashback to the previous one.
“There are some really good memories from that game,’’ Luck said. “There are also some not-so-good memories from that game.
“We dug ourselves quite the hole.’’
And they dug themselves out of it.
“It was fun. It was special,’’ wideout T.Y. Hilton said. “We just never gave up, never gave in.
“We were pretty much down the whole game and towards the end we just found a way to get the W.’’
Over the game’s final 28 minutes, the Colts authored the second-biggest comeback in NFL postseason history. They outscored the Chiefs 35-10 en route to a 45-44 victory. After his interception to open the second half, Luck finished 17-of-23 for 314 yards. The offense piled up 372 yards and scored touchdowns on five of their final six possessions.
The defense finally exerted itself. There was Robert Mathis’ strip-sack of Alex Smith that helped build the third-quarter momentum – “I remember that being pretty cool,’’ Luck said – and Josh Gordy’s tight coverage of Dwayne Bowe on the Chiefs’ last gasp, a failed fourth-and-11 from the Indy 43.
The comeback was fueled by Luck’s 12-yard TD pass to Coby Fleener, a pair of TDs from Donald Brown and Luck’s signature scoop-and-score on Brown’s fumble near the goal line that closed the deficit to 41-38.
“That’s when it started to swing, man,’’ Hilton said. “(Luck) always seems to make a play at the right time.’’
Finally, it was Luck and Hilton doing what they had done so often.
The Colts faced a first-and-10 from their own 36. They trailed 44-38 and just 5:36 remained.
As Hilton replayed the situation in his mind, he recalled Luck’s simplistic suggestion.
“Before we broke the huddle, Andrew just told me to run,’’ he said with a widening smile. “He launched it.’’
Hilton did the rest, splitting safeties Quintin Demps and Kendrick Lewis for a 64-yard touchdown. His second TD of the game gave the Colts their first lead of the game and upped his totals to 13 catches and 224 yards, both team postseason records.
Andy Reid was in his first season as the Chiefs’ head coach and had to deal with in-game injuries that decimated his secondary.
“Yeah, we didn’t play well enough and didn’t coach well enough,’’ he said. “So, we needed to do a couple different things in all areas.
“We didn’t do enough to win the game.’’
And the Colts did just enough.
Even staring up from the 38-10 hole, they believed.
“Andrew, man, he just said, ‘Stay with it. We’re gonna win this game,’’’ Hilton said. “That’s what he does, man.
“He always finds a way. Just to have him on the team is special.’’
We’re about to discover if there’s more to come.
The Colts and Chiefs are meeting in the playoffs for a fifth time, and Kansas City still is looking for its first win in the I-70 series. Incredibly, the Colts have won as many postseason games at Arrowhead Stadium – 2 – as have the Chiefs.
Indy’s 2-0 road record consists of a frigid 10-7 win in the 1995 divisional round and a 38-31 shootout in the 2003 divisional round.
Kansas City is 9-18 in the postseason. They’re 1-5 under Reid in the playoffs, have lost six straight at home and are just 1-11 in their last 12.
Reid was in no mood to elaborate on the Colts’ playoff success against the Chiefs.
“Listen, I don’t know the history of that,’’ he said. “I haven’t really followed that. “I’m good in that area.
“I am not sure exactly where you are going with it, but I’ll tell you that we are going through the process and getting ready to play a great football team. So we all know that’s where absolutely all my energy is going.
“I don’t read anything. I don’t do that. I don’t want to disrespect you guys because you spend a lot of time . . . I know that’s not an easy job so I am not trying to disrespect anybody when I say that. It’s just I don’t read during the season or listen to radio or TV. So I am very naïve that way when it comes to that stuff.’’