Indianapolis Colts lean on Luck to beat Denver

Daniel Herron of the Indianapolis Colts carries the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals. Picture: Getty Images
Daniel Herron of the Indianapolis Colts carries the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals. Picture: Getty Images
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Andrew Luck passed for 376 yards and a touchdown as the Indianapolis Colts cruised past the Cincinnati Bengals 26-10 for an AFC wildcard play-off victory yesterday.

Colts, the AFC South champions, will now play at the Denver Broncos in next Sunday’s divisional game.

Cincinnati, missing top receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham due to injuries, were limited to a field goal after a first-quarter touchdown.

The Bengals did not have a first down in the third quarter and suffered their seventh consecutive play-off loss.

Indianapolis surged ahead 20-10 in the third quarter onLuck’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief. Adam Vinatieri added two of his four field goals to put the game out of reach.

On Saturday, the Carolina Panthers won their first play-off game in nine years as they held the Arizona Cardinals to just 77 yards in a 27-16 victory.

Cam Newton threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns in his first career playoff win, while Jonathan Stewart ran for 122 yards and a touchdown.

But the game was littered with mistakes, most of them on Arizona’s side. Ryan Lindley was intercepted twice and sacked four times as the Cardinals set an unwanted NFL record for the fewest total yards gained in a post-season game. The Panthers will now face either Seattle or Green Bay next weekend. Joining the Panthers in the divisional playoffs are Baltimore after a strong second-half performance guided the Ravens to a 30-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw for two touchdowns during the second half and 259 yards for the game as the Ravens secured their first ever post-season victory in Pittsburgh.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times by the Ravens defence but still managed to throw for one touchdown and 334 yards.

Roethlisberger put the blame for Saturday’s loss on his own shoulders and issued an apology.

“Every time you turn the ball over it’s frustrating,” said an emotional Roethlisberger of the loss at home that ended Pittsburgh’s season. “That’s why I want to apologise to the fans, to my teammates, to the organisation, the Rooneys (owners), the coaches.

“It’s frustrating and I wish I could apologise individually to everybody.”

Next up for the Ravens is a divisional playoff showdown against the New England Patriots on Saturday.