Andrew Luck, The Escape Artist, Strikes Again

Intro: Needing an offensive score to preserve momentum in the third quarter on Sunday, Andrew Luck went into his bag of tricks. How did Chuck Pagano and Luck’s teammates view the quarterback’s splendid third-quarter touchdown?

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INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano called it "magical."

Dwayne Allen labeled the play, a work of an "escape artist."

Adam Vinatieri, at the age of 42, summed it up pretty accurately as "awesome."

However you want to define Andrew Luck's throw to Donte Moncrief's for a 36-yard third-quarter touchdown, giving the Colts a critical two-score lead, it was a play that the quarterback had described just a few days earlier.

As Luck stood at the podium for his Wednesday media session, he shared his thoughts on what this time of year was all about.

"…Big time players step up and make plays…," Luck said in elaborating on what he had learned from his previous playoff experiences.

While Luck wasn't speaking directly about himself, he had one of those moments on Sunday.

A three-point halftime lead for the Colts should have been more, and the offense knew that.

After the Colts defense forced a second straight three-and-out to start the third quarter, Luck and the offense began at their own 39-yard line.

Catches from Donte Moncrief and Boom Herron pushed the Colts into Bengals territory, before a second-and-10 from the 36-yard line faced Luck.

A blitz from Bengals safety Reggie Nelson forced Luck to step up into a closing crease, with Cincinnati leading sacker Carlos Dunlap ready to pounce.

Scrambling options for Luck were evaporating once the Bengals saw the Pro Bowler climb in the pocket.

With the 280-pound Dunlap draped on Luck's left leg, the quarterback hardly flinched.

A frozen rope was in stride for Moncrief, not the top option on the play, as Dunlap's momentum took Luck to the turf.

When the quarterback looked up, Moncrief was mid-celebration in the end zone and Luck had made one of those plays that the game's elite dial up in January.

"The one magical play to Moncrief was Andrew at his finest," Pagano said after the game.

As backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck saw the blitzing Nelson creep towards the line of scrimmage, he thought the play was doomed from a blocking standpoint.

The play should not have worked, and should definitely not have resulted in Luck's 100th career postseason completion.

"He's a maestro back there," Pagano says of his signal caller. "He's unbelievable. He made great decisions today and he made them all day long. It was a great game for him."

While the play itself was the highlight those across the nation will see in the coming days, Pagano is spot on. People shouldn't ignore Luck's work throughout the entire 60 minutes on Sunday afternoon.

Inability to protect the football in earlier postseason contests was absent for Luck on Sunday.

He was flawless, with a 31-of-44 afternoon for 376 yards, leading the Colts to their first opening touchdown drive of the season.

When check downs needed to be hit, Luck found them, knowing that the Bengals were looking to eliminate the Colts normal deep threat connections.

It was the type of performance that fans have seen so many times during the regular season.

Now, with the stakes heightened to one-and-done football, Luck proved he could do it in these types of situations as well.

Earlier this week, Colts safety Mike Adams pointed to Luck's locker as to why he thought a playoff run could be coming.

It's why Broncos defensive coaches will shake their heads when rewinding Luck's magician like escape from the third quarter on Sunday.

On a play where virtually every quarterback in the league would have been sacked, or just settled to live another play, Luck wanted it all.

"It's never ever, ever down and out with (Luck)," Adam Vinatieri said after the game shaking his head at Luck's locker. "Andrew just always finds a way to extend plays and keep things going. They always say, 'When you've got him on your team, you always have a chance.'

"It's awesome to see a guy that says, 'I'm never giving up on this thing because I can make that play.' It's just an extreme amount of confidence."

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