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Archive for Monday, January 12, 2004

Chiefs can’t catch Colts

Indy offense dominates K.C. defense in 38-31 victory

January 12, 2004

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— He has been unstoppable ... and Peyton Manning knows it.

"I am hot right now. We're hot as an offense," Manning said Sunday after picking apart Kansas City with 304 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-31 victory that put Indianapolis in the AFC title game.

"It's not trickery, just running the same plays we've run all season," the NFL co-MVP added, referring to the masterful performance that quickly quieted the usually raucous Arrowhead Stadium crowd. "Hopefully, we can keep it up next week."

Next week's game will be in Foxboro, Mass., against the NFL's best team, the Patriots. New England has won 13 straight games and certainly will present a tougher challenge defensively than Kansas City for the Colts.

"Right now, I'll go to Afghanistan," said running back Edgerrin James, who has said he wanted to avoid the cold of New England. "We're playing for the Super Bowl."

In making Kansas City's defense look like a sieve, Manning was 22-for-30. He took the Colts (14-4) to scores on six of their first seven drives and, including last week's 41-10 win over Denver, is 44-for-56 in the postseason for 681 yards and eight touchdowns.

"He is the master," Kansas City defensive end Eric Hicks said. "That was an amazing performance. I never would have thought a quarterback would play two games in a row like that.

"They took us behind the woodshed and just beat us. It was embarrassing."

Punter Hunter Smith, who did not kick last week, again wasn't needed. Manning, James (24 rushes for 125 yards) and Reggie Wayne (six catches, 83 yards) made sure of that.

It was the first time in NFL history there were no punts in a playoff game, mostly because Indianapolis' defense wasn't any more efficient. All-Pro running back Priest Holmes, who set an NFL record with 27 touchdowns this season, dove in from the one for two scores. Dante Hall, also an NFL record-setter this season, had a TD on a 92-yard kickoff return.

Indianapolis wide receiver Brandon Stokley (83) crosses the goal
line while being chased by Kansas City cornerback Dexter McCleon
(22). The Colts' offense rolled in a 38-31 victory Sunday at
Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., and Indy advanced to the AFC
championship Sunday at New England.

Indianapolis wide receiver Brandon Stokley (83) crosses the goal line while being chased by Kansas City cornerback Dexter McCleon (22). The Colts' offense rolled in a 38-31 victory Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., and Indy advanced to the AFC championship Sunday at New England.

In all, the Colts gained 434 yards and the Chiefs had 408. The difference was that Manning converted every big play.

"He doesn't throw an inaccurate ball," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. "Every pass is where it should be."

Manning hit Brandon Stokley on a 19-yard pass to open the scoring, and also connected with Tom Lopienski for two yards and Wayne for 19.

James had scoring runs of 1 and 11 yards and Mike Vanderjagt hit his 40th straight field goal this season, from 45 yards.

That offset the brilliance of Kansas City's offense, and Holmes setting a franchise playoff record with 176 yards rushing.

And so the Chiefs' 13-3 regular season ended with a first-round playoff loss at home -- where they were unbeaten in 2003 -- for the third straight postseason. That also happened in 1995 and '97. They had won 13 straight at Arrowhead.

Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, left, and quarterback Peyton Manning
congratulate each another following their 38-31 AFC playoff victory
Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, left, and quarterback Peyton Manning congratulate each another following their 38-31 AFC playoff victory Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City, losers of seven in a row to the Colts, got unlucky at the start of the second half. Holmes broke free for a 48-yard run, but fumbled when hit by David Macklin at the Colts' 22, and Macklin recovered.

Manning promptly guided the Colts downfield. Only Kansas City's first big defensive play of the game -- Shawn Barber throwing James for a five-yard loss -- slowed the juggernaut.

Vanderjagt's 45-yard field goal made it 24-10.

Holmes atoned by scoring from the one after a 24-yard sprint. Manning merely shrugged and engineered a 64-yard drive capped by a 19-yard pass to Wayne.

If Indy was feeling comfortable, though, it was shaken 13 seconds later when Hall streaked 92 yards. The All-Pro, who had kick returns for scores in four straight regular-season games, snagged the first in Chiefs playoff history.

"You just saw a lot of hard work go to waste," Hall said. "Before we start pointing our finger at the defense, I think we should tip our cap to Peyton Manning."

As could be expected from the Colts' proficient offense, they scored immediately. Manning hit Stokley down the middle for a 29-yard touchdown to finish a 70-yard drive, indicating early that Kansas City's struggling defense was in for a long afternoon.

And, not surprisingly, the Chiefs responded with a 73-yard drive during which Holmes had 44 yards on seven carries. Morten Andersen kicked a 22-yard field goal.

Kansas City running back Priest Holmes, center, fights off
Indianapolis defenders David Macklin, right, and Walt Harris.
Holmes fumbled on the play, and Macklin recovered for the Colts.
The play proved costly for the Chiefs in a 38-31 loss Sunday in
Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City running back Priest Holmes, center, fights off Indianapolis defenders David Macklin, right, and Walt Harris. Holmes fumbled on the play, and Macklin recovered for the Colts. The play proved costly for the Chiefs in a 38-31 loss Sunday in Kansas City, Mo.

The Colts resumed the attack, moving 76 yards on six plays, with Manning hitting Marvin Harrison on a 38-yard pass. James surged through a huge hole into the end zone for a 14-3 lead.

Back came Kansas City, converting three third downs before Hall slipped free near the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown, his first postseason reception and the first playoff TD throw of Trent Green's career.

Manning's second touchdown pass, a two-yarder to seldom-used fullback Lopienski completed a 71-yard drive to make it 21-10. Again, the Chiefs never looked capable of stopping the Colts.

Not that Indianapolis was any stauncher defensively. Again, Kansas City marched downfield, only to have Tony Gonzalez's 27-yard touchdown reception negated by a suspect offensive interference call. The usually dependable Andersen botched a 31-yard field goal.

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