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In remarkable rally, Colts overcome 28-point deficit, beat Chiefs 45-44

Dunta Robinson, T.Y. Hilton

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) scores a touchdown against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Dunta Robinson (21) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

AJ Mast

In one of the biggest comebacks in NFL postseason history, the Colts rallied from a 28-point third-quarter deficit to stun the hard-luck, injury-riddled Chiefs 45-44 in Saturday’s wild-card game in Indianapolis.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 443 yards and four touchdowns, three of which came in the second half, as Indianapolis closed from the clouds to nail Kansas City just before the wire.

The Colts took their one and only lead of the game with 4:29 left in regulation when Luck connected with wideout T.Y. Hilton for a 64-yard touchdown.

On their ensuing drive, the Chiefs would march into Indianapolis territory, but when Kansas City wideout Dwayne Bowe was carried just out of bounds on a potential 4th-and-11 reception, the Colts had their first postseason win since 2009.

The Chiefs took a 38-10 lead early in the second half on quarterback Alex Smith’s fourth TD pass of the game, a 10-yarder to tailback Knile Davis. Then, the Colts, led by Luck, Hilton and tailback Donald Brown, unleashed a rather remarkable and sustained closing kick.

The Colts got the ball rolling with a 10-yard Brown TD run with 11:52 left in the third quarter. On the Chiefs’ ensuing possession, Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis forced a Smith fumble, which was recovered by inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. The Colts cashed in the takeaway, with Brown’s three-yard TD catch narrowing the Chiefs’ edge to 38-24 midway through the third quarter.

Now, it was Kansas City for whom the problems were starting to mount. On Brown’s second touchdown, the Chiefs lost cornerback Brandon Flowers to a potential concussion, which added to an injury list that already included tailback Jamaal Charles and wideout Donald Avery, who each left to be tested for concussions and did not return. Later, Davis, who had replaced Charles, would leave with a fourth-quarter injury.

The Chiefs would stem the tide briefly, with safety Husain Abdullah’s second third-quarter interception of Luck setting up a field goal to give Kansas City a 41-24 lead with a little more than four minutes left in the period.

But back came the Colts, with Luck hitting tight end Coby Fleener for a 12-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 41-31.

Then, early in the fourth quarter, the Colts got a big dose of good fortune. On 2nd-and-goal from the Kansas City two-yard line, Brown fumbled, but the ball bounced to Luck, who took it in for a touchdown.

Suddenly, the Colts were within 41-38 with less than 11 minutes left. The Chiefs needed to counterpunch in the worst way, and to some extent, they did, tallying another field goal to end a drive bleeding about five minutes off the clock.

But it was just a glancing blow. And then, Luck hit Hilton to give the Colts the lead — and the game.

Hilton, a second-year pro from Florida International, played at a blue-chip level on the playoff stage, catching 13 passes for 224 yards and two TDs. Luck, meanwhile, overcame three interceptions to earn his first playoff win as the Colts’ starter.

For the Chiefs, Saturday’s loss was another heartbreaking chapter in a series of recent playoff struggles. The Chiefs have not won a postseason game since January 16. 1994, when they defeated the Houston Oilers 28-20.

For much of Saturday, they looked on their way to victory. Smith played a wonderful game, throwing for 378 yards.

Then, unbelievably almost, the Colts kicked it into gear.