INDIANAPOLIS – As the Colts Wild Card matchup carried deep into the second half on Sunday, it started to look more and more like their regular season meeting with the Bengals.
Another stout defensive performance helped the Colts earn a 26-10 win at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Here's a notebook look at the Colts winning a playoff game for a second straight season.
Jerrell Freeman Leads Defensive Charge
The goal was obvious.
The task was challenging, but necessary in order to live to play another week.
When examining the biggest difference between the Bengals and Colts regular season meeting versus their Wild Card matchup, a committed and productive Cincinnati ground attack was the focus.
Coming into Sunday, rookie running back Jeremy Hill led the NFL with an average of 103 rushing yards on 19 carries over the last two months.
Without their two top pass catchers, the Bengals wanted to pound Hill and try to take pressure off of quarterback Andy Dalton's shoulders.
The Colts would not allow that to happen though.
Hill had just 47 rushing yards on 13 carries, forcing Dalton to throw the ball 35 times in trying to come back in the second half.
"We knew they were going to run the ball," defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said.
"They're a great team, they can run the ball whenever they want to, but today, that was the first thing we had to stop. We had to stop the run game."
Jerrell Freeman, a deserved recipient of a game ball, led the charge with 15 tackles (seven solos) and also had 1.5 sacks, including a game-clinching forced fumble.
Following the first quarter, the Colts defense was particularly effective in getting the Bengals off the field.
Cincinnati could only produce three points the rest of the way, that coming off a 57-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter.
"Defensively, another outstanding job," Chuck Pagano said after the game
"(Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky) and the defensive staff and his players did a great job, pitched a shutout in the second half."
New Starting Line Protects High Octane Offense
The starting lineup was the 11th different in 17 games this season.
The backups were an undrafted free agent and a practice squad player, who had played in one career game and was called up to the active roster earlier this week.
Watching the unit operate on Sunday and it looked like a cohesive group that didn't include three starters who were inactive back in the team's regular season opener.
"Credit the offensive line coaches and those players for sticking to the process and those guys staying ready," Pagano said after the 26-10 victory.
Andrew Luck was sacked just once in 47 drop backs and helped the offense pile up 482 total yards of offense.
With Luck airing it out, the Colts didn't need to grind out many yards on the ground but were productive when it needed to be.
Boom Herron and Zurlon Tipton combined for 96 rushing yards on 23 carries as the Colts tried to run out the clock late on Sunday.
It will be interesting to see how the line shakes out next week with the possibility of A.Q. Shipley (ankle) and Hugh Thornton (shoulder) returning to the lineup.
"They did great," Luck said.
"They did incredibly well run blocking, pass blocking, handling the tempo and handling everything. It was fun to be out there with them."
Vinatieri Pads Postseason Resume
The topic brought up was a bit laughable when looking back on it after the final gun sounded on Sunday.
How would Adam Vinatieri react to having his perfect season come to an end last week in Tennessee?
Here's Vinatieri, a 42-year old with the mental makeup that rivals any professional athlete in the game's most clutch of moments.
On Sunday, Vinatieri was Mr. Automatic again, banging home 4-of-4 field goals, including one from 53 yards out, the longest in Colts postseason history.
Vinatieri's has now made 55 career postseason field goals, 16 more than other player.
Next week, Vinatieri will tie Jerry Rice for the NFL record of 29 postseason games played.*A Look At The Colts Snap Counts Against Cincinnati *
-The Colts used many multiple tight end looks on Sunday with Dwayne Allen playing 66 of 77 offensive snaps. Coby Fleener saw 58 snaps of action. Jack Doyle chipped in with 25.
-At running back, Boom Herron played 58 offensive snaps, Zurlon Tipton was out there for 18 snaps and Trent Richardson played just a single offensive snap.
-At receiver, Reggie Wayne led the group with 55 snaps. Donte Moncrief played 41, T.Y. Hilton played 39 and Hakeem Nicks rounded out the group with 23 snaps.
-Defensively, Mike Adams and D'Qwell Jackson played all 62 defensive snaps.
-LaRon Landry logged 61 defensive snaps with Sergio Brown moving over to strictly a special teams role.
-The defensive line snaps were as followed: Cory Redding (52), Arthur Jones (46), Ricky Jean Francois (29), Josh Chapman (22) and Montori Hughes (7).