KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Christmas came two days early for the Indianapolis Colts. They opened their biggest present Sunday afternoon with a 20-13 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The outcome pushed them into the AFC playoffs as a wildcard entry.
They'll have another Christmas on Monday, when coach Chuck Pagano returns after missing more than two months while receiving treatment for leukemia.
By the time Tuesday rolls around, what's left under the Christmas tree may prove anticlimactic for the Colts.
"Mission accomplished," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who has been holding the head coaching seat for Pagano. "It's a fantastic feeling knowing that he's going to be back Monday and the work week shouldn't be as stressful."
Although they finish up the season at home next Sunday against Houston, quarterback Andrew Luck said the Colts wanted to take care of postseason business in Kansas City.
"We really wanted for his return to know that we were in; we didn't want to slide in the backdoor," Luck said. "We didn't want to put that extra stress on a man who is just coming back to work, where you've got to win. We are very, very glad that we are going into the playoffs and that coach is coming with us."
In the second quarter, Luck surpassed the NFL record for passing yardage by a rookie quarterback. His 205 yards against Kansas City gave Luck 4,183 for the season.
Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers had the previous mark with 4,051.
The Colts won the game despite having problems on defense. They allowed Kansas City 507 yards of offense with 352 yards coming from the running game. Chiefs running backs Jamaal Charles (226 yards) and Peyton Hillis (101 yards) were nearly impossible for the Indy defense to slow down.
"We wanted to be able to run the ball," said Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel. "It turned out we were able to run it. Jamaal did a nice job and so did Peyton and they kept us in the game."
The story of the Chiefs' season has been turnovers and another chapter was written against the Colts. In 13 games, they have given the ball away 37 times while forcing just 12 takeaways.
They tacked on three more giveaways in this game and the first one came early when quarterback Brady Quinn threw behind wide receiver Dexter McCluster and the ball was intercepted by Colts cornerback Darius Butler who returned it 32 yards for a touchdown.
The PAT kick staked Indianapolis to a 7-0 lead with less than five minutes gone in the game.
Kansas City came back and put a field goal on the scoreboard in its next possession, as kicker Ryan Succop made a 47-yard field goal. In the second quarter Indianapolis got those three points back when kicker Adam Vinatieri made a 48-yard field goal.
The Chiefs' second giveaway came late in the second quarter when they were driving into scoring territory. Charles had the ball knocked out of his hands by linebacker Pat Angerer. The fumble was recovered by Indy safety Joe Lefeged at the Colts 22-yard line.
Luck hit a couple of long passes down the field and Vinatieri kicked a 36-yard FG before the end of the first half to give Indianapolis a 13-3 lead.
"I don't care how many yards I had, when I give the ball up I'm killing my team," said Charles, who has run for 1,456 yards on the season and qualified to become the NFL's all-time career leader in yards per carry, passing Jim Brown and pushing his average to 5.8 yards per attempt (770 carries for 4,483 yards.)
The third quarter belonged to the Chiefs. It started with the 86-yard touchdown run by Charles on the first offensive snap of the period. Later in the quarter they got a 47-yard field goal by Succop that made it 13-13.
Luck was awful in the third quarter, completing just one of 10 passes and the Colts managed just two first downs on four possessions with 15 plays. But midway through the fourth quarter, Indianapolis took possession and Luck drove the offense 73 yards before finding Wayne at the back of the end zone for the touchdown on a third-down play with just over four minutes to play.
The Colts return to work on Monday with a ticket to the playoffs and their head coach coming back to work; he left to start treatment on October 1.
"It's going to be an emotional day," said Luck. "But it's already a great Christmas."
Notes: Indianapolis was missing five starters from the game because of injury: S Tom Zbikowski (knee), LB Kavell Conner (hamstring), C Samson Satele (ankle), OT Winston Justice (bicep) and NT Antonio Johnson (ankle). ... Colts free safety Antoine Bethea went past 800 career tackles in the first quarter.