Colts, Saints use late heroics to advance
Quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts scores a touchdown in the 4th quarter after recovering a fumble during the Colts' 45-44 Wild Card Playoff win against the Kansas City Chiefs, January 4, 2014, in Indianapolis, Indiana
Quarterback Andrew Luck led the fightback by engineering five second-half touchdown drives, capping the comeback with a 64-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton for the go-ahead score with 4:21 left on the clock Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"We never panicked," said Luck. "We feel like we are in every game. The guys stuck with me and we pulled this one out."
In the other wild card contest Saturday, the New Orleans Saints booted a 32-yard field goal as time ran out to edge the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24.
The Colts stumbled out the gate as Luck threw three interceptions that allowed the Chiefs to take a 38-10 lead.
Luck, who is in his second year in the league, finished with four touchdown passes, recovered a fumble for another touchdown and completed 29 of 45 passes for a total of 443 yards.
The victory means the Colts could potentially face former franchise hero Peyton Manning, who now plays quarterback for Denver. That matchup will depend on the result of the Cincinnati and San Diego wild card game on Sunday.
If Cincinnati wins Sunday, then Denver will host the Colts on January 11. If the Chargers win, the Colts will square off against New England on January 12.
Hilton also stepped up against the Chiefs, making 13 catches for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Donald Brown had a receiving and rushing touchdown for Indianapolis, who had dropped three straight games in the playoffs after last season's 24-9 wild-card loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Kansas City got off to a rocky start when all-star running back Jamaal Charles left the game after suffering a concussion on the opening drive of the game.
The Chiefs shook off the loss of Charles to score on their first five possessions and build a substantial lead.
Quarterback Alex Smith threw four touchdown passes while going 30-of-46 for 378 yards in the loss.
Dwayne Bowe made eight catches for 150 yards and a touchdown as the Chiefs suffered their eighth consecutive playoff loss.
Knile Davis helped make up for the loss of Charles as he rushed for 100 yards and recorded both a rushing and receiving touchdown. But he left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
Shayne Graham's game-winning field goal as time expired lifted the Saints to a National Conference wild card win over the host Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
"It was about being patient and taking what they were giving us," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
"We came up with some great plays. Everybody played great. This is a total team effort."
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles connected with Zach Ertz on a go-ahead three-yard touchdown pass with 4:54 left.
Brees then went to work, converting two key third downs with a pair of quarterback sneaks on the ensuing New Orleans possession.
That set the stage for Graham to end New Orleans' road playoff hex. It was the Saints' first road playoff win in six attempts. Graham replaced Garrett Hartley after week 15 of the regular season.
"We know how good we can be it is just a matter putting it all together," Brees said. "This was a great test on the road, in a hostile environment and the defence played outstanding."
The Saints move on to face the NFC's number one seeded Seahawks next Saturday afternoon in Seattle.
"On the road and in the cold, everybody said we couldn't do it. Now we got to get ready for Seattle," said Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton.
Brees was 20-of-30 for 250 yards with a touchdown, while Mark Ingram rushed 18 times for 97 yards and a touchdown.
In the other NFC wild card game of the weekend, San Francisco travels to Green Bay to play the Packers on Sunday.