It was going to be easy for the Chiefs. Up 38-10 after a dominant first half and early third quarter touchdown, Lucas Oil Stadium was silent. Andrew Luck had uncharacteristically thrown back-to-back interceptions, and the Chiefs were taking sweet solace in giving the Colts their comeuppance after they beat the Chiefs handily in Kansas City two weeks earlier.
Then Robert Mathis sacked Alex Smith and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Colts, and hell promptly broke loose.
The Colts scored two touchdowns in a 4:30 span to quickly cut the deficit in half. After a Chiefs field goal, Indy scored another touchdown to pull within 10 points. Lucas Oil shed its funereal atmosphere and came alive. Luck and the Colts had a reputation for making big comebacks, and they were on their way to another.
If you needed one sign that providence was on the Colts' side, this was it:
If you needed more, then look no further than the mountain of injuries the Chiefs suffered. Running back Jamaal Charles left the game with a concussion on the Chiefs' opening drive. Wide receiver Donnie Avery and cornerback Brandon Flowers were also forced out due to concussions, seemingly suffered back-to-back in the third quarter. When backup running back Knile Davis, who had been productive in place of Charles, left the game in the fourth with a knee injury, it seemed like there was nothing more that could go wrong for the Chiefs after so much went right early.
Smith was the hero of the first half, throwing three touchdowns before intermission despite missing one of the most dynamic weapons in the league in Charles. His second was a perfectly placed bomb to a wide open Avery that the wideout took 79 yards. His fourth went to Davis, giving the Chiefs a 28-point lead off Luck's second interception. Smith was accurate and in command. This is how he found Anthony Sherman in the second quarter, a thread-the-needle shovel pass at the goal line:
After Mathis' sack, however, it was Smith's turn to miss throws near the red zone. With 2nd-and-8 on the Colts' 41-yard line, Smith missed a wide open Cyrus Gray deep down the right sideline for what could have been a momentum-shifting score. The Colts then took the ball back and Luck scored his bizarre fumble-ricochet touchdown to pull within three points.
The Colts then took the lead for the first time Saturday with 4:29 remaining in the game. Luck found T.Y. Hilton for the 13th time on the day. He went 64 yards on a play reminiscent of the Smith-to-Avery connection in the first half. The Colts led 45-44, and the comeback was complete.
To reiterate: It was crazy.
Box score heroes
Andrew Luck went 29-for-45 passing for 443 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He hit T.Y. Hilton 13 times for 224 yards and two scores.
Alex Smith went 30-for-46 378 yards and four touchdowns ... in a losing effort.
The Chiefs were hit by a spate of concussions. Jamaal Charles, Donnie Avery and Brandon Flowers were all ruled out of the game.
Did they cover?
The Colts were favored by one point, according to OddsShark. It was a push. Somehow.
The Colts advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, where they await the result of Sunday's game between the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals. If the Chargers win, the Colts will face the New England Patriots next week. If the Bengals win, the Colts will face the Denver Broncos for the third time this season.
The Chiefs' season is … over.