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Defense saves the day for Colts

Indianapolis wins, 23-8, limiting Kansas City to 44 yards rushing and bailing out Manning.

January 07, 2007|From the Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Peyton Manning knows all about falling apart in the playoffs. Though he struggled early Saturday, the Indianapolis Colts' stunningly stingy defense came to the rescue.

Manning and the Colts beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 23-8, on Saturday, and although the star quarterback's numbers were good -- 30 for 38 for 268 yards -- his performance was mediocre. He had three passes intercepted, didn't complete a deep pass and was bailed out by his defense.

"You have to keep playing," said Manning, who improved to 4-6 in the playoffs. "Every time you drop back to throw, your goal is to possess the ball on the next play. Three times, I was very poor on that. As soon as it gets you second-guessing, as soon as it gets you gun-shy, that's when you have problems."

The beleaguered Indianapolis defense was so good -- or perhaps more accurately, Kansas City's offense was so bad -- that Manning's miscues didn't stop the AFC South champions from advancing to the next round at Baltimore on Saturday.

A defense that yielded 173 yards rushing a game this season gave up 44 to Pro Bowl back Larry Johnson and the Chiefs.

Kansas City's initial first down came with 3 minutes 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Indianapolis had four sacks, two by Dwight Freeney, and two interceptions. The Chiefs managed 126 total yards.

"We heard it all about having the worst defense," Freeney said. "Now we can hear this: We have the best run defense in the playoffs."

Adam Vinatieri made three field goals and rookie Joseph Addai rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown for the Colts (13-4). With Manning unable to throw deep, Indianapolis gave Kansas City (9-8) a steady dose of short passes that wore out the Chiefs.

That was most evident after Kansas City finally woke up and drove 60 yards to a six-yard touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez with eight seconds remaining in the third period. Then the Colts went 71 yards in nine plays, mostly victimizing the Chiefs' linebackers underneath. Reggie Wayne caught a five-yard touchdown pass to make it 23-8.

When Bob Sanders intercepted Green's lob with just more than six minutes remaining, the Colts could start making travel plans for Baltimore.

"It's a big challenge," Manning said. "Playing Baltimore is tough enough, but to go there -- I think it's one of the tougher places to play. And they've been off a week and are fresh."

Until falling behind 16-0, the Chiefs looked like a team surprised to have made the playoffs, which they did last Sunday with a lot of help from other clubs. Johnson, who rushed for 1,789 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, was never a factor. He had only 32 yards in 13 carries.

Manning nearly handed Kansas City points when his throw behind Marvin Harrison from the Colts 49 went to nemesis Ty Law. He ran to the Colts' nine, but again the Chiefs couldn't do anything. Lawrence Tynes missed the field-goal try, clanging it off the left upright.

Combined with four dropped passes, no first downs -- that's right, none -- and 16 total yards, it made for a futile first half for the Chiefs, who haven't won a postseason game in 13 years.

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