Neither the exterior nor inside of Lucas Oil appeared markedly different than during the Indianapolis Colts’ eight regular-season games.
Blue banners celebrating team accomplishments occupied their traditional spaces. A shell game with Ring of Honor recipients didn’t take place days prior
to Sunday’s game simply to see if
anyone would notice if, say, the names
of Chris Hinton and Marshall Faulk had been switched.
But then the postseason in the NFL has never been about look.
It’s about feel.
Towel-waving fans provided an energy that wrapped itself around Sunday’s AFC wild-card playoff game as Indy lengthened its season with a 26-10 rout against Cincinnati.
Third-year quarterback Andrew Luck continued his assault on the record books, completing 31 of 44 passes for 376 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions as the Colts (12-5) now set their sights on the Denver Broncos.
Indianapolis is at Denver next Sunday with an AFC Championship Game berth at stake.
A Colts win coupled with Baltimore scoring an upset victory at New England would allow Indianapolis the opportunity to host the game with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.
Unwilling to look that far ahead, Colts players are simply happy being one of eight franchises still in the hunt.
“I think you appreciate every win and you don’t take it for granted. At the same time, we’re off to next week,” said Luck, who finished the regular season with 4,761 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and only 16 picks.
“The playoffs have a different feel. You’ve got to move on, and you’ve got to keep that journey alive. As a team I think we’re excited about the opportunity.”
Indianapolis set the tone immediately, marching 71 yards on nine plays on the game’s first offensive series to take a 7-0 lead on Daniel “Boom” Herron’s 2-yard run up the middle.
Cincinnati answered to tie
the game, but the Colts, undeterred, went on to lead 13-10 at halftime before pulling away in the second half.
Luck’s gorgeous 36-yard touchdown pass to rookie Donte Moncrief with 7:48 remaining in the third lifted Indianapolis to a 20-10 advantage. Field goals of 22 and 53 by Adam Vinatieri provided the game’s final points.
“They brought a blitz and Boom did a great job of avoiding his fake on the play-action going to pick up the safety,” Luck said.
“I sort of stepped up in
the crease, saw Donte running
his butt off and tried to put
it in a spot where only he
could get it.
“He does such a great job of running underneath those balls and made a heck of a catch.”
The obvious and somewhat tired storyline to next week is Denver quarterback Peyton Manning facing his old team.
Luck knows it goes a lot deeper than that.
“It’s not the quarterback versus quarterback thing. We’re not on the field at the same time. I have a lot of respect for (Manning), what he does. I’ll worry about the Denver defense.”