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Colts defense elevates game to down Chiefs; Ravens next test

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- 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 inept Kansas City Chiefs 23-8
Saturday, and while the star quarterback's numbers were good --
30-of-38 for 268 yards -- his performance was mediocre. At least it
was for the most prolific passer of his generation.

He threw three interceptions, didn't complete a deep pass and,
ultimately, 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.

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

A defense that yielded 173 yards rushing per game this season
allowed only 44 to Pro Bowl back Larry Johnson and the Chiefs.

Kansas City's initial first down came with 3:34 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."

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."

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 TDs this season, was never a factor. He had only 32
yards on 13 carries.

"If we can't do what we do best, it amps them up," Johnson
said. "And they certainly got amped up."

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.

"The way Kansas City's defense was, there were very few times
we'd get a true single coverage outside on Marvin and Reggie,"
Manning said. "Play action to get the ball downfield was not
there. But our running backs did such a great job of getting open
and catching the ball and what we call 'going north.'

"Those checkdowns turned into 12-yard gains, and that's a real
positive for the offense."

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

When Dustin Colquitt punted less than 1½ 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.

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.

"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."

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.

Game notes
Law has four more interceptions of Manning than anyone
else. ... Dominic Rhodes added 68 yards rushing for the Colts. ...
Vinatieri's 50-yard FG tied the club record by Mike Vanderjagt in
2000 ... Previously, the fewest net yards allowed in a playoff game
by the Colts was 139 against Cincinnati in 1970, and the fewest
yards rushing was when Cleveland had 56 in 1968. ... Chiefs WR
Eddie Kennison, who had 53 receptions this season, was shut out.