INDIANAPOLIS — As the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs finish preparations for Saturday’s AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium, one of the more popular speculations is that this matchup will be a shootout between two of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses.
Twice before in the postseason for these two teams, it turned out that way. And each time, the Colts scored the most.
The most recent is what Colts fans remember and Chiefs fans would like to forget. The Colts rallied from a 28-point, third-quarter deficit for a 45-44 triumph on Andrew Luck’s 64-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton with 4:21 remaining in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game on Jan. 4, 2014, at Lucas Oil Stadium.
One score became an instant photo classic shared on social media as Luck scooped up a fumble and dove into the end zone for a 5-yard TD earlier in the final quarter. One popular edited photo had Luck sporting a Superman-like cape.
While Luck is still sporting that proverbial cape as the Colts’ franchise player, team identities have switched a bit. These Chiefs have the more highly regarded offense, led by second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, averaging an NFL-best 35.5 points per game. Luck and the Colts ranked fifth in scoring at 27.1 points per game.
The last time, the Colts were the fourth seed while the Chiefs were fifth. And the Colts were one-point home favorites. This time, the Colts (11-6) are sixth seeds while the Chiefs (12-4) are first. The Colts are five-point road underdogs.
Andy Reid is still the Chiefs head coach. Chuck Pagano was leading the Colts five years ago, replaced this past offseason by Frank Reich.
In a league with so much turnover, where teams are constantly adding young talent and the average playing career is 3.3 years, just four Colts who played in that game are still on the active roster — Luck, Hilton, left tackle Anthony Castonzo and kicker Adam Vinatieri. Nine Chiefs are still on their roster.
The Colts have won all four postseason games against the Chiefs, including twice at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs haven’t won a home playoff game in 25 years.
But the most recent playoff matchup probably isn’t the closest comparison.
On this date 15 years ago, Peyton Manning led the third-seeded Colts into Arrowhead Stadium to face the second-seeded Chiefs. Just like this year, it was an AFC Divisional Playoff matchup. Those Colts were coached by Tony Dungy. Those Chiefs were coached by Dick Vermeil.
Manning threw three TD passes, including a 2-yard score to fullback Tom Lopienski. There’s a trivia stumper. Lopienski’s career lasted just six regular-season games over two seasons. The Notre Dame product never had a single NFL carry. And that touchdown was the only time he ever touched the football.
Colts running back Edgerrin James cranked out 125 yards rushing and two TDs. Wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison each had six receptions, Harrison’s gaining 98 yards while Wayne’s totaled 83 with a 19-yard TD.
The Chiefs counted on running back Priest Holmes, who rushed for 176 yards and two TDs. Chiefs quarterback Trent Green threw one TD pass to Dante Hall, who also had a 92-yard TD kickoff return.
The teams combined for 842 yards total offense as the Colts prevailed, 38-31.
But what perhaps stands out the most from that game is an NFL playoff record that still stands — neither team punted.
Just eight teams in NFL postseason history, including those same Colts in their first-round home rout of Denver the week before, have ever finished a playoff game without a punt. This was the only time two punt-less teams were in the same game.
It’s of course highly unlikely that kind of history will repeat itself on Saturday. Then again, you never know.