By Jana Persky
Andrew Luck ’12 outplayed predecessor Peyton Manning Sunday afternoon to earn his first appearance in an AFC championship game. Luck passed for 265 yards and 2 touchdowns to win 24-13 and hand the Broncos their first home loss of the season.
After the Colts’ first two series ended with punts, Luck led Indianapolis on two consecutive touchdown drives to give Indianapolis a 14-7 lead that they would never relinquish.
Luck targeted former Stanford teammate and current Colts tight end Coby Fleener six times throughout the game, including a 32-yard completion on third-and-16 in the third quarter to set up the Colts’ third touchdown. Fleener finished with three catches for 49 yards.
The Colts will now take on the top-seeded Patriots next Sunday in New England. In Week 11, the Patriots knocked off the Colts 42-20 in Indianapolis as Luck threw for 303 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.
“I’d like to think I am a better quarterback and would like to think we’re a better team now,” Luck said after the game. “We are well equipped to handle the unknown, the unforeseen.”
Former Stanford offensive lineup Cameron Fleming was inactive last weekend for New England, but may rejoin the active roster this weekend. In the last matchup between the two teams, Fleming reported in as a sixth offensive lineman/eligible receiver 37 times and helped Patriots running back Jonas Gray to a 4-touchdown performance.
In the NFC, meanwhile, Richard Sherman ‘10 and Doug Baldwin ‘11 made their presence felt in the Seattle Seahawks’ 31-17 win over the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night.
Baldwin kicked off the scoring for the defending Super Bowl champs with his second career postseason touchdown grab. On a third-and-9 from the Carolina 16-yard line, Baldwin and quarterback Russell Wilson identified a safety blitz before the snap and took advantage.
“Russ saw it before I did and threw a beautiful ball and gave me a chance to go up and get it,” Baldwin said after the game.
Baldwin’s role has continued to expand within the Seahawks offense. He led Seattle in regular-season receiving yardage (825) by a wide margin, and an ACL tear by fellow Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson on Saturday should spell even more targets for the outspoken Baldwin.
Sherman set the tone earlier in the game with a leaping interception, further adding to his postseason resume. The pick was Sherman’s seventh in six career NFL playoff games.
“I should’ve had two or three of them,” Sherman said. “There were some missed opportunities today. I didn’t think he would throw that go ball. I heard earlier in the week that he was going to try me and he didn’t care what side he threw it to, so you have to make him pay for those bad decisions.”
Contact Jana Persky and Joseph Beyda at jpersky ‘at’ stanford.edu and jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.