Comebacks becoming regular part of Colts legacy

The Indianapolis Colts keep doing unthinkable things.

They’re winning close games with a rookie quarterback and one of

the league’s youngest teams. They’re winning with an interim head

coach, and now, they’re on the verge of making it back to the

playoffs without Peyton Manning.

And it’s all thanks to a new cast of comeback kids.

”You know you have a chance until the last tick goes off the

clock with those guys -as long as you can keep it within a

manageable striking distance,” coach Bruce Arians said Monday

describing his experiences with three quarterbacks he’s coached:

Andrew Luck, Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

Manning and Roethlisberger have the Super Bowl rings to prove


Luck doesn’t have his ring yet, but his resume is getting

stronger each week.

He’s led the Colts to last-minute winning drives against Green

Bay and Minnesota, an overtime win at Tennessee and, on Sunday,

delivered another masterpiece with two TD passes in the final 2:39

to rally Indy from a 33-21 deficit to a stunning 35-33 win at

Detroit as time expired. It was Indy’s first winning score with no

time left since 1990, yet another chapter in Luck’s uncanny rookie


The two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up has already broken Cam

Newton’s single-game record for yards passing by a rookie; broken

Manning’s record for most 300-yard games as a rookie (six); and has

won more games (eight) than any quarterback taken No. 1 overall

since the 1970 merger. He’s still on pace to break the league’s

single-season rookie marks for attempts, completions and yardage,

and when Luck has needed big passes in clutch situations, he’s been

almost unstoppable.

In one key measure, games decided by eight or fewer points, Luck

is a gaudy 7-1. The only loss came on an improbable an 80-yard TD

pass with less than a minute to go after Luck had given Indy the

lead with another last-minute score. Compare those numbers to

Manning, who won eight one-possession games at four different times

during his 14 seasons with Indy, and had a career-high nine only

once, in 1999.

Luck’s latest chapter came in Manning-like fashion Sunday when

the 6-foot-4, 234-pound quarterback threw a perfect 42-yard strike

to LaVon Brazill despite having a defender wrapped around his legs.

That score got the Colts within 33-28.

After a desperately needed defensive stop, Luck went back to

work with 1:07 on the clock and no timeouts.

He started the drive with a 9-yard run, then dropped a perfect

lob into Reggie Wayne’s hands for 26 yards with 52 seconds left.

After a spike, Luck sprinted around Ndamukong Suh and stepped out

of bounds for a 16-yard gain. He followed that with a 10-yard

completion to Dwayne Allen that gave Indy four chances at the end

zone from the 14 with 24 seconds left. Luck’s first three passes

all fell incomplete, but on the final play, a scrambling Luck

spotted the open Donnie Avery short of the goal line, flicked the

ball to him and nearly outran Avery into the end zone as time


”They don’t know no better, don’t know any better, man,” Wayne

said after the game. ”They just know to just keep playing, at the

end of the game, just see the way we fall out. That’s a credit just

to the coaches. Just keeping the guys into it, keeping them to play

toward the end and guys just go out there and keep fighting and

fighting till it’s all over.”

It also explains why the Colts are closing in on an improbable

playoff trip.

If Indy beats Tennessee (4-8) at home Sunday, all the Colts

would need to clinch a postseason spot is one more win and a

conference loss by either Cincinnati (6-5) or Pittsburgh (6-5).

Since the franchise moved to Indy in 1984, the Colts have made the

playoffs just three times without Manning.

But with only two teams outside of the AFC’s four division

leaders having fewer than seven losses, and because Indy hasn’t

played either the Bengals or Steelers, the tiebreaker would be

based on AFC record. With two wins in their last four games, the

Colts would be 10-6 overall and 7-5 against the AFC. Cincinnati and

Pittsburgh, who play Dec. 23 in Pittsburgh, already have five

losses each against AFC foes.

Indy closes the season by hosting Tennessee, visiting Houston

and Kansas City before facing the Texans in a Dec. 30 rematch at

Lucas Oil Stadium – a game the Colts have pegged as the possible

return for head coach Chuck Pagano.

Arians, who took over for Pagano after he was diagnosed with

leukemia Sept. 26, has gone 7-2. Only three coaches in league

history have won more games after a midseason coaching change: San

Diego’s Don Coryell (8-4 in 1978), Wally Lemm (9-0 in 1961) with

the Houston Oilers in the AFL, and Hamp Pool (9-2 in 1952) with the

Los Angeles Rams.

But Arians isn’t looking at records, closing flurries or the

playoffs. He wants the Colts to focus on what they did do best –

succeeding when nobody else expects it.

”There’s some really good football teams behind us and we just

have to take care of our own business, and we will worry about all

that (later) because a lot of the teams will play each other in

these last few weeks,” Arians said when asked about looking at

possible playoff scenarios. ”There’s plenty of time to worry about


Notes: Arians said Pagano was expected to complete his third and

final round of chemotherapy Tuesday and he could be back at Lucas

Oil Stadium on Sunday, though Arians said it would be ”tough”

because this is when Pagano’s white blood-cell count is expected to

drop. … Indy’s players got a second straight Monday off, their

reward for winning on Sunday. … Arians did not update the injury

status of starting offensive linemen Winston Justice or Joe Reitz,

who both left Sunday’s game with possible concussions. … Arians

did, however, give his own injury update after taking a hard fall

when Lions safety Don Carey ran into him following an interception.

”Just a little stiff, a little stiff,” Arians said. ”But I’m OK.

I can take their best shot.”

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