Sloppy Colts silence Chiefs

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts kept their playoff persona alive, looking shaky and sloppy at times. At least on Saturday, they faced a team that struggled even more.

While Manning’s numbers were good, his performance was mediocre. Fortunately for the Colts, their beleaguered defense bailed them out with a strong effort in a 23-8 victory over the inept Kansas City Chiefs.

For most of the day, the 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. While Manning was throwing three interceptions and looking tentative, the Chiefs’ Larry Johnson and Trent Green were simply awful for more than 40 minutes.

“Our defense was awesome today,” Manning said. “We made some mistakes and the defense made sure we didn’t pay for it.”

Kansas City’s offensive line, expected to dominate a defense that yielded 173 yards rushing per game this season, got overrun for much of the day. The Chiefs’ initial first down came with 3:34 remaining in the third quarter.

Until falling behind 16-0, they looked like a team surprised to have made the playoffs, which they did last Sunday with a lot of help from other clubs.

Meanwhile, Adam Vinatieri made three field goals and rookie Joseph Addai rushed for 122 yards and a TD for the Colts (13-4). Wisely, 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 6-yard touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez with 8 seconds remaining in the third period. Then the Colts went 71 yards on nine plays, mostly victimizing the Chiefs’ linebackers underneath. Reggie Wayne caught a 5-yard TD pass to make it 23-8.

When Bob Sanders intercepted Green’s desperate lob with just more than 6 minutes remaining, the Colts could start making travel plans for Baltimore – the city they left 23 years ago.

“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.”

The Colts also sacked Green four times and had two interceptions. Johnson, who rushed for 1,789 yards and 17 TDs this season, was never a factor. He had only 32 yards on 13 carries.

And while Manning’s favorite receiver, Marvin Harrison, also had little impact, tight end Dallas Clark, in just his second game back from a knee injury, had nine catches for 103 yards.

Manning was 30-of-38 for 268 yards, with a vast majority of the completions on short throws.

This game took a far different shape than the previous meeting between these clubs.

When Dustin Colquitt punted less than 1 minutes into the game, it was one more punt than in a 38-31 Indianapolis win three years ago at Kansas City. His 37-yard effort gave the Colts good field position, and they wound up with Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal.

Vinatieri added a 19-yarder to make it 6-0 following a 42-yard hookup on third down between Manning and Harrison on another short pass.

By the end of the first quarter, the Colts had run 20 plays, the Chiefs 12 – including three punts. Kansas City gained 2 yards in the period.

“We didn’t get any rhythm offensively,” Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. “I thought our defense hung in there for the most part, but I think they got a little fatigued.”

Manning nearly handed Kansas City points when his throw behind Harrison from the Colts 49 went to nemesis Ty Law. He ran to the Indy 9, but again the Chiefs couldn’t do anything. Even worse for them, Lawrence Tynes missed the chip-shot field goal, 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.

Law got his ninth career pick of Manning early in the third quarter, but KC went three-and-out again. Edwards, one of Colts coach Tony Dungy’s best friends and a former assistant under Dungy, looked perplexed. That look never faded.

“We hadn’t shown in a while what we were capable of,” Dungy said.

AP-ES-01-06-07 2009EST

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