INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck missed T.Y. Hilton on one critical play Sunday. The Colts quarterback didn’t make the same mistake again.
On his second chance, Luck threw a perfect strike to Hilton with 1:17 to play, and the Pro Bowl receiver spun out of a tackle and zig-zagged 63 yards down the field to give Indianapolis a 26-22 victory over San Diego.
Just 35 seconds earlier, Luck tried the same play with Hilton on fourth-and-7, but an off-target throw forced Hilton to spin around for an eight-yard catch. The next time, Luck got it right.
"It was the same sort of play and I kind of missed him," Luck said, referring to the fourth-down throw. "So I came back to him and this time I hit him in stride."
Hilton took care of the rest.
It’s the second time on Luck’s home turf that he has led the Colts (1-2) to a go-ahead score in the waning seconds. But, unlike the season opener two weeks ago, the Colts recovered two fumbles in the final 62 seconds to preserve the victory.
Luck finished 24 of 37 for 331 yards with one TD and one interception to earn his 15th career come-from-behind win.
No, he wasn’t flawless. But when it mattered most, Luck excelled with the two big plays to Hilton.
Philip Rivers got two chances to win it. The first ended when Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams recovered a fumble with 62 seconds left. The second ended when linebacker D’Qwell Jackson covered the bouncing ball on the Chargers’ last-gasp desperation play.
Rivers was 26 of 39 for 330 yards.
View from the sidelines: NFL cheerleaders 2016.
"You have to put teams away when you have opportunities to do it or make the plays earlier in the game," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "We didn’t do that for four quarters. We have to make those plays."
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa practiced in pads for the first time this week. The No. 3 overall draft pick still has not made his NFL debut. After showing up following a prolonged contract holdout, Bosa’s return was set back by a hamstring injury. Now the question is how much longer will the Chargers keep him out?
Indy still hasn’t started 0-3 since 2011, when Peyton Manning missed the entire season with an injured nerve. How big was this win? Since the current playoff format took effect in 1990, only five 0-3 teams have made the postseason, and nobody has done it since the 1998 Buffalo Bills.
On what was supposed to be the final play of the game, the Chargers had no punt returner so they could send everyone to block Pat McAfee’s kick. McAfee pooched it inside the Chargers’ 20-yard line where the Colts downed it. One problem: The refs called illegal touching, giving San Diego an untimed play. Afterward, Pagano explained that the Colts weren’t allowed to touch it until the refs blew the ball dead.
THEY SAID IT
Chargers: Rivers on the unsportsmanlike conduct call he drew after a 43-yard completion put San Diego at the Indy 6: "That’s the most unfair penalty I’ve ever gotten. I’ve never gotten one like that. I’ve never gotten one for really doing nothing. It maybe was the cleanest thing said on that field today and he (the official) was 30 yards away. From what I hear, it looked like nothing on the TV, but I don’t know."
Colts: Coach Chuck Pagano on his thoughts as Hilton broke the tackle: "Probably like you guys, too much time on the clock. If you’re going to score, don’t score so fast."
Chargers: Linebacker Manti Te’o came in as San Diego’s leading tackler, but left in the first quarter with an Achilles tendon injury and did not return. The injury occurred when he appeared to plant his left leg while chasing Gore into the flat. McCoy said Te’o will undergo tests Monday morning to confirm the initial diagnosis.
Colts: The Colts played most of the game without their regular starters on the right side of their offensive line. Guard Denzelle Good (back) was inactive and right tackle Joe Reitz (back) left during the first half.