Just when it seemed like the Colts were on the verge of turning around their season with a 27-24 win over the then-undefeated Denver Broncos on Nov. 8, quarterback Andrew Luck suffered a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle in the victory. Luck wouldn't play again and the Colts stumbled down the stretch, missing the playoffs for the first time under head coach Chuck Pagano.
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Pagano appeared on his way out of Indianapolis before staging a Black Monday comeback, emerging with a new four-year contract. The reported bad blood between Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson appears to be settled, as the two were all smiles at press conference announcing Pagano’s new deal. Colts owner Jim Irsay indicated Grigson would be receiving an extension, as well. A stunning turnaround from what appeared to be an inevitable parting of ways between Pagano and the Colts.
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson came up with a big play when his team needed it the most, picking off Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and taking it back for a six-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Colts’ Nov. 22 win over the Falcons. Jackson’s pick-six completed a comeback from a 14-point second-half deficit and helped propel Indianapolis to victory.
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The 51-16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 13 was ugly on many levels. The blowout defeat not only snapped the Colts’ 16-game winning streak against AFC South opponents, but it also set the team up for a must-win game the following week against the Houston Texans. Unfortunately for the Colts, they lost that game, as well, and the Texans went on to clinch the division.
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The Colts tasked 40-year-old backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck with starting eight games in place of the Andrew Luck and the 17-year-veteran more than held his own. Hasselbeck played through a series of injuries to lead the Colts to a 5-3 record as the starter. He was knocked out of four games with injuries and three times was able to play the next week before a Week 16 shoulder injury ended his season. The Colts fell short of making the playoffs, but it’s hard to fault Hasselbeck’s effort.
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Best offseason acquisition
Frank Gore didn’t quite have the year he and the Colts were hoping for when he joined the team after 10 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, but the running back was still a dependable offensive contributor. Gore played in all 16 games, running for 967 yards and six touchdowns. Indianapolis finished 29th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 89.9 yards per game, but much of that can be attributed to the team’s struggles along the offensive line. After Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans, Gore expressed frustration with how his season unfolded, but at 32, he proved he is still a factor.
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The Colts' offense, which was supposed to be the clear strength of the team, sputtered much of the season -- even with Luck in the lineup. Indianapolis finished 28th in the league in yards and 24th in points. Those struggles contributed to the in-season dismissal of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Luck’s absence surely played a large role, but the offense’s inability to carry the team as expected was a surprising development.
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Wide receiver Andre Johnson failed to make a major impact with the Colts, posting the worst 16-game totals of his career. The 34-year-old caught 41 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns. He had strong games against the Carolina Panthers and in his homecoming to Houston, but was a non-factor much of the season. Johnson reportedly objected when Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told him he would only catch around 40 passes this season, which led to his departure from Houston last spring. In retrospect, it appears O’Brien was correct.