INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts needed a touchdown late in the fourth quarter Saturday, and the Chiefs' defense, nursing a tenuous 44-38 lead with 5 minutes left, was firmly entrenched in bend-but-don't break territory.
Of course, given the way the Colts' offense had revved up in the second half, it wasn't hard to imagine the Chiefs' pass defense snapping at the most inopportune time -- and that's exactly what happened, courtesy of (rather ironically) a seam route.
But when speedy Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton split the Chiefs' cover-two shell right down the seam for a 64-yard touchdown, it not only delivered instant heartbreak to Kansas City fans, but it also concluded one of the best receiving performances in playoff history.
With his game-winning score, Hilton broke Reggie Wayne's record for receiving yards in a Colts' playoff game with 224 (Wayne had 220). Hilton's mark is now the third most in playoff history.
Hilton, a speedy 5-foot-9 receiver who finished with two touchdowns, also set a team record for receptions in a single playoff game with 13.
Chiefs cornerback Dunta Robinson, one of several players assigned to slow down Hilton, said the Chiefs knew the Colts would make getting the ball to Hilton a priority.
"Without Reggie Wayne, he's their top receiver. So we knew what we were going to get," Robinson said. "We didn't do a good job of stopping him today."
Robinson acknowledged that there were several factors that played into Hilton's big day.
"His quickness and speed, you know, that's rare in this league," Robinson said. "And obviously, Luck."
As in Andrew Luck, Indianapolis' star quarterback. The second-year pro was the primary reason for the Colts' ability to rally from a 38-10 deficit early in the second quarter, as he bounced back from three interceptions -- including two by backup safety Husain Abdullah, who took on a bigger defensive role for the first time this season -- to throw three touchdowns in the second half.
"He's everything we thought he was," Robinson said. "He's the best young quarterback in the game for a reason, and he showed it today. He never gave up and he led his team back when they needed him most."
Luck, who completed 29 of 45 passes for 443 yards, was aided by a quick and up-tempo passing game that shredded the Chiefs' secondary, much the way it did in week 16, when he led the Colts to a 23-7 win at Arrowhead Stadium.
"The quick game," said cornerback Sean Smith, when asked to identify how the Chiefs allowed 35 second-half points. "You have to get the ball out quick. He made some good reads, and the ball was definitely getting out fast.
"I don't have all the answers right now, I have to get back to the film and see what else went wrong, but from my point of view, he was getting the ball out quicker."
When asked if Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, whose defense allowed Kansas City's final eight opponents to average almost 30 points per game -- after it held teams to 17 points or fewer in each of its first games -- put them in position to have success Saturday, Smith said he did.
"Definitely," Smith said. "You can't blame anything on the coach. His job is to call the game; our job is to go out there and execute. We definitely didn't do that on our end. We're not going to point fingers at everybody. We win or lose as a team."
Robinson said the Colts, who trailed 31-10 at halftime, didn't make many adjustments at the break. They just started executing better.
Meanwhile, Smith said the Chiefs did make adjustments in the second half; they just didn't work.
"In the end, it all comes down to who made more plays," Smith said. "They definitely did that. They came out throwing fire and never looked back."
Perhaps no one was hotter than Hilton, who showed off his electric speed and topped a career day by running past safety Kendrick Lewis for the game-winning score, the final gut punch to a miserable overall day for a Chiefs' defense that showed some spunk in the first half but ultimately didn't make enough plays when it truly mattered.
"They just got the best of us," Robinson said of the Colts. "There's no excuse."
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