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
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
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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