INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – They tried, they really did.
When talking with the local media Wednesday, Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck did their best to defuse one of the storylines surrounding the next opponent on the Indianapolis Colts’ dance card.
That would be the Kansas City Chiefs.
You remember the Chiefs, right?
The last time we saw them was Jan. 4, 2014 and they were coughing up a 28-point third-quarter lead at Lucas Oil Stadium in a 2013 wild-card playoff game, and becoming a punch line. Luck and the Colts chased them down 45-44, overcoming the second-largest deficit in postseason history in the process.
What does Luck remember about the last time he faced the Chiefs?
“I believe it was in the playoffs a couple of years ago and it was a good win,’’ he said, stoically and without immediate elaboration.
A follow-up question addressed whether that comeback was the best among his 17 career fourth-quarter/overtime comebacks.
“I take a little bit of umbrage,’’ Luck said. “I don’t think I’ve had 17 comeback victories. I’ve been a part of a team that’s been behind.
“Yeah, it was fun to come back and win in that fashion, at home. I think it was the first victory for a lot of guys on the Colts. I think it was mine. A lot of fun. But that was then and this is now. It’s a much different setting, much different year.’’
Pagano followed a similar script, which wasn’t surprising since it’s one he probably authored and delivered to the team.
That was then, this is now. Blinders. Ear muffs.
Where would you rank the comeback against the Chiefs?
“Twenty-eight points down, probably No. 1,’’ Pagano said.
Do you recall your thoughts in the third quarter when a Luck interception on the Colts’ first possession of the second half led to a Chiefs’ touchdown and a 38-10 deficit?
“Just keep chopping wood,’’ Pagano said.
Luck and Pagano were more revealing on their conference call with Kansas City media. Yes, it was something special.
Pagano described the game as “one of those moments’’ and “a great football game.’’
“Any time you’re able to make a comeback like that, being down 28 in the third quarter, it’s hard to do and I credit our coaches and players.’’
Luck, too, opened up just a bit.
“It was obviously a great win for us,’’ he told the Kansas City media. “We fell behind against a really good team and managed to plow our way back or claw our way back and get a win.
“I just know it was a big win for us and it helped us advance. One more week in the playoffs, right? I think it was the first playoff win for a lot of us. It was the first one in my career, so that, obviously was a special thing. But I told our guys today that were asking about it and the media, it has zero bearing on this year.
“It’s not frustrating to talk about, but to me, it doesn’t matter. It’s a moot point.’’
Luck was asked if there was a flashpoint in the game, when he truly believed the Colts would complete the long road back.
Maybe his 12-yard touchdown pass to Coby Fleener late in the third quarter that narrowed the deficit to 41-31?
Maybe him scooping up Donald Brown’s fumble near the goal line and stretching across the goal line to bring the Colts to within 41-38 with 10:38 to play?
Maybe his 64-yard touchdown pass to a streaking T.Y. Hilton that gave the Colts their first lead of the day at 45-44?
“I don’t have any recollection of one sort of ‘Aww yeah’ or epiphany moment during that game,’’ Luck insisted.
The Colts sealed the deal and handed the Chiefs a devastating loss when cornerback Josh Gordy successfully defended Alex Smith’s fourth-and-11 pass to Dwayne Bowe along the right sideline with less than 2 minutes to play.
In a euphoric locker room, owner Jim Irsay offered perspective.
“I don’t over-exaggerate this,’’ he said. “I have never in my almost 50 years (in the NFL) seen what I saw today.’’
Luck passed for 443 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. After contributing to the 28-point deficit with two interceptions, he completed 17-of-23 passes for 314 yards with three TDs and one interception over the final 28 minutes.
Hilton set team playoff records with 13 catches and 224 yards. Robert Mathis kick-started the comeback with a third-quarter strip/sack/forced fumble of Smith.
It was an instant classic.