INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck orchestrated the second-biggest comeback in NFL history in a wild, 45-44 wild-card victory. The second-year quarterback rallied the Indianapolis Colts from a 28-point third-quarter deficit Saturday to eliminate the Kansas City Chiefs.
Team of destiny?
The Colts (12-5) sure looked like it as they advanced into the divisional round as Luck threw for 443 yards and four touchdowns, including his game-winning, 64-yard laser to T.Y. Hilton with 4:21 left.
BOX SCORE: Colts 45, Chiefs 44
Only the Buffalo Bills' climb from a 32-point hole to beat the Houston Oilers 41-38 in overtime Jan. 3, 1993 proved a greater playoff comeback.
Nothing seems too much to handle for Luck, who displayed the same poise on the field that he used while facing the daunting challenge of following in Peyton Manning's footsteps.
Except Luck's 11th career comeback exceeded anything Manning did in his 14 seasons with the Colts, who will face either the New England Patriots or Manning's Broncos next weekend.
Conventional wisdom suggested the fifth-seeded Chiefs and quarterback Alex Smith aren't built to win a shootout. It took a while to prove, but Luck validated that theory when he found Hilton, who split safeties Quintin Demps and Kendrick Lewis, detonating an explosion of delirium inside Lucas Oil Stadium with 4:21 left.
Hilton finished with a franchise-best 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
Luck shrugged off three interceptions and marched the Colts back with the uncanny composure of a 10-year veteran.
Last January, Indianapolis was a feel-good postseason surprise, a team inspired by coach Chuck Pagano's three-month battle with leukemia. But the team that lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens a year ago has grown up quickly. Small wonder that Luck's former Stanford University offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, has gone more up-tempo lately while putting the ball into Luck's hands more frequently.
The Colts have now won four in a row, largely because Luck hit 17 of 24 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns in the second half against Kansas City.
Smith finished 30 of 46 for 378 yards with four touchdowns as the Chiefs finished 11-6 one year after going a league-worst 2-14.
The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game since 1993 and lost four players to injuries, including all-pro running back Jamaal Charles, wideout Donnie Avery and cornerback Brandon Flowers to concussions.