by Justin Henry
Cold Hard Football Facts' Dr. Death (@jrhwriting)
Twenty-one years ago, it was "Reich to the Rescue", as Buffalo improbably defeated the Houston Oilers by a field goal, once being down by 32 points. Saturday night, it was "Luck with the Lift", as Andrew Luck and the Colts went on a 35-6 run in the final 27 minutes, edging the Chiefs 45-44 in a playoff game for the ages.
Beset by turnovers early, the Colts made up for normally life-threatening mistakes by putting together a series of long drives in the second half, capped off by a 64-yard strike to T.Y. Hilton with 4:21 remaining. Kansas City would turn it over on downs in Colts territory to complete Indianapolis' improbable comeback.
1. Luck Outduels Smith in Some Key Categories
As our own Kerry Byrne noted, Alex Smith is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw four touchdown passes and no picks in a playoff game, and lose that game. His 119.66 passer rating ended up holding no weight, particularly as his game-ending incompletion to Dwayne Bowe rendered his stats moot. Luck may have tossed three picks, but four TDs override those.
Out of necessity, Luck outdueled Smith in Real Passing Yards Per Attempt, 9.48 to 7.56. Luck shredded the Chiefs secondary in the second half, averaging 15.3 yards a completion overall, compared to Smith's 12.6. The Colts' 23 passing first downs beats the Chiefs' 16, but of course, Indianapolis had to throw more. Luck did match Smith's four TD throws, most importantly.
2. Colts Make Up for Turnovers With Sustained Drives
The Chiefs did lose Jamaal Charles on the opening drive of the game, via a turf-bounced concussion, but Knile Davis (later injured himself) and Smith carried most of the load from there, averaging 4.69 YPA as a team. Indy surpassed that with 5.26 YPA on 19 carries (100 yards), spurred by Donald Brown's 11 rushes for 55 yards, and Luck's seven scrambles for 45.
The Colts were also slicker on the money down, another crucial part of Offensive HOG Index. On third and fourth down combined, Indy went six of nine on the afternoon, including a 21-yard Luck run on fourth, following a fake to Trent Richardson. Kansas City went a combined nine for 16, with their only attempt on fourth the failed Bowe throw at the end.
3. Colts Offense a Little Stronger
Five touchdown drives in the second half, with Luck going completely surgical on either a lulled or just flat Chiefs defense will remain the stuff of NFL Films legend. With four turnovers going against them (three Luck picks and a sad Richardson fumble), Indy erased each error with an 11.91 Scoreability rating (a touchdown every 83.37 yards gained).
Technically, the Chiefs owned a better Scoreability rating of 11.66 (a touchdown every 81.61 yards), but Kansas City didn't have to overcome the hellacious mountain that Indianapolis was given (and put themselves in). For the Chiefs, it's a horrid drop from their 19.30 Bendability rating for the regular season, which was second only to Carolina.