Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest what ifs in recent sports memory: What if Andrew Luck never retired early? The landscape of the NFL would likely look very different today. It’s disappointing that we never saw Luck reach his full potential, but for one magic moment, he showed us something special.

Happy 10th anniversary to the Indianapolis Colts’ wild AFC Wild Card victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. On Jan. 4, 2014, Luck engineered the second-greatest comeback in playoff history.

Down 38-10 in the third quarter, the Colts rallied for a 45-44 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was the most shocking postseason outcome since the Buffalo Bills stormed back from a 32-point deficit against the Houston Oilers to win 41-38 in overtime on Jan. 3, 1993.

No one predicted the Chiefs-Colts game to become an instant classic, but it was expected to be a close game. The teams had the same record (11-5). But while Indianapolis was the AFC South winner, Kansas City was the AFC West runner-up behind the Denver Broncos (13-3). The Chiefs had a weird season. They opened 9-0 but stumbled down the stretch. One of those defeats was to Indianapolis 27-3 in Arrowhead Stadium two weeks before this postseason matchup.

Still, officially, the Colts were only 2.5-point favorites against a Chiefs team that hadn’t won a playoff game in 20 years. Imagine everyone’s surprise when the Colts fell behind 24-7 in the second quarter and 31-10 at hafltime.

Luck, the 2012 No.1 overall draft pick, was supposed to be the guy to lift the franchise back to the glory days of Peyton Manning. But in his second-ever playoff game, Luck looked awful early. He threw three interceptions, including one on his first pass of the second half that the Chiefs returned to the Indianapolis 18. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith connected with Knile Davis on a 10-yard TD pass to make the deficit 38-10 with under 14 minutes left in the third quarter.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Colts had a 0.9 percent chance of winning.

What could have spiraled into a disaster became Luck’s finest hour. The second-year quarterback threw three second-half touchdowns and scored another in an unlikely way. In the fourth quarter, running back Donald Brown fumbled inside the Kansas City five-yard line after being hit by safety Eric Berry. Luck alertly picked up the loose ball and dove into the end zone for the touchdown that pulled the Colts within 41-38.

It’s probably the most iconic play of Luck’s career.

Kansas City was not done. The Chiefs kicked a field goal to increase the margin to 44-38 with 5:40 to left to play. But Luck connected with Ty Hilton on a 64-yard TD pass for the game-winning score with 4:21 left. Luck finished 29 of 45 for 445 yards with four touchdowns and three touchdowns. Hilton had 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns.

From an efficiency point of view, Luck was outplayed by his counterpart. Smith was 30 of 46 for 378 yards with four touchdowns and no picks. Kansas City should have won this game. Instead, Luck’s first playoff victory was, as Colts coach Chuck Pagano said, “one for the ages.”

Then-Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz wrote, “This is how Andrew Luck starts his legend. Years from now, you’ll always know where you were, how you were feeling the moment Luck put the Indianapolis Colts on his broad shoulders and led them back from a 38-10 deficit.”

The following week, the Colts lost to the New England Patriots 43-22 at Gillette Stadium. But the future looked bright. Especially when Luck piloted the Colts to the AFC Championship in January 2015. Little did anyone realize that Luck would stun the sports world by retiring in August 2019 at the age of 29. Years of taking a beating behind a bad offensive line had taken its toll.

Colts fans are still wondering ‘what if’ because ‘what was’ was amazing at times.

Especially on one special Saturday in January.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.