INDIANAPOLIS >> With the Bengals as their opposition, the Indianapolis Colts didn’t need to be great to win Sunday.
It’s the playoffs, after all, and Cincinnati simply doesn’t win in the postseason.
Andrew Luck threw for 376 yards and one touchdown, Daniel “Boom” Herron ran for another score, and Indianapolis dominated the second half to beat Cincinnati 26-10 in the AFC wild-card round. The Colts made a fair share of mistakes, but nothing like the Bengals, who became the first team in NFL history to lose four consecutive opening-round playoff games.
They also are 0-6 in the postseason under coach Marvin Lewis, 0-4 with Andy Dalton at quarterback.
“In the big moments, the guys that are our big guys have to make the plays,” veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “You see it every week. You look at the teams that win, their top guys make the plays that get them where they’ve got to go. It’ll be no different here. When we get in those situations, our big players have to make huge plays.”
The Colts (12-5) head to AFC West winner Denver (12-4) next Sunday, giving Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning another shot at his former team and the QB who replaced him.
“On to next week,” Luck said. “It’s the playoffs. There’s a difference. You’ve got to move on; you’ve got to keep that journey alive.”
All-Pro Adam Vinatieri made four field goals for AFC South champ Indianapolis.
Later Sunday, it was Detroit (11-5) at Dallas (12-4).
Ravens 30, Steelers 17
Joe Flacco continued his impressive postseason performances, throwing for two second-half touchdowns to beat the Ravens’ bitter AFC North rival. The Ravens (11-6) won in Pittsburgh for the first time in the postseason; Pittsburgh had been 9-0 in third games of a season against the same opponent.
The Ravens are 7-4 on the road in the postseason since John Harbaugh took over as coach in 2008 and Flacco was drafted.
“We’ve been on the road a lot in the playoffs,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe that’s it.”
Now, it’s on to New England (12-4) next Saturday.
“Bring ’em on,” linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “We’re going to work hard in practice this coming week and go up there and play our best game. We’re going to play Ravens football. And with a great game plan, I know we’ll be ready for anything.”
Panthers 27, Cardinals 16
Just the second team with a losing record to win a division title, the Panthers (8-8-1) took their fifth straight game by ending Arizona’s season. It was Carolina’s first playoff win in nine years.
The defense held the Cardinals (11-6) and third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley to 78 yards, the fewest in NFL playoff history.
“We know who we are — menacing, stifling and we are going to get after you,” cornerback Josh Norman said. “We know when there is blood in the water and when there is, our sharks are going to eat.”
They might not find such a meaty opponent next week when the AFC South champs travel to either Seattle or Green Bay.