KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The expectations placed upon Andrew Luck almost seemed unfair.
Being the heir to Peyton Manning in Indianapolis is heady stuff for a rookie taking the reins of a franchise that won two games last season.
Now, after guiding the Colts back to the playoffs — and breaking Cam Newton’s single-season passing record for a first-year player — it’s safe to say Luck exceeded just about all of them.
Luck threw for 205 yards Sunday, and his 7-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne on third-and-goal late in the fourth quarter gave the Colts a 20-13 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. That put them into the playoffs without worrying about anybody else.
“Would we have done it without him?” Colts interim coach Bruce Arians asked. “No.”
Luck broke Newton’s record of 4,051 yards passing in the second quarter. But it was extending his own rookie record for fourth-quarter comebacks to seven was more important.
The Chiefs had rallied behind Jamaal Charles‘ 226 yards rushing to tie the game 13-13 heading into the fourth quarter. The Colts’ defense stuffed quarterback Brady Quinn on fourth-and-inches to give Luck a chance.
That’s all he needed.
After a miserable stretch in which he connected on 1 of 13 passes, the fabulous freshman calmly led Indianapolis (10-5) downfield. He completed a key pass to T.Y. Hilton on third down and made two nice throws to Wayne before hitting the veteran in the back of the end zone.
“We had so many opportunities all game, especially on third down, that we squandered,” Wayne said. “We wanted to get that done. That was the opportune time to do it.”
Darius Butler returned an interception 32 yards for the Colts’ other touchdown, helping them join the 2008 Miami Dolphins as the only teams to win at least 10 games after losing 14 or more the previous season.
Most of those wins have come under Arians, who has filled in admirably while Chuck Pagano underwent treatment for leukemia. Pagano is expected to rejoin the Colts this week.
“Mission accomplished. That’s all I can say,” Arians said. “Without getting emotional again, knowing that (Pagano) is going to be back Monday, the work week shouldn’t be as stressful.”
Charles‘ big day included an 86-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half. It was his second 200-yard game of the season, and came one week after he managed 10 yards on nine carries against Oakland.
“It was fun today, competing out there and doing it while we were trying to come back,” Charles said. “It was fun going out there and putting out a performance like that.”