INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis signed Matt Hasselbeck three years ago to help groom Andrew Luck.
Turns out, the three-time Pro Bowler and one-time Super Bowl starter is learning things from his much younger teammate.
After the 40-year-old quarterback threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 25-12 victory over Tampa Bay to improve to 4-0 as a starter this season, Hasselbeck acknowledged he is actually getting better with age.
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''I came here kind of thinking `What else could you know? What else could you do to the man or zone or this kind of thing?''' he said. ''I've learned a lot of football here. I think I have gotten better just being around him (Luck) and this coaching staff.''
The Colts (6-5) won't quibble with the results.
On a day Hasselbeck joined Brett Favre and Warren Moon as the only Super Bowl era starters to win four straight starts in their 40s, Hasselbeck outplayed a highly touted rookie nearly half his age.
Hasselbeck finished 26 of 42, produced his first 300-yard game in four years and kept Indy poised after it settled for field goals on each of its first three scores. Jameis Winston, meanwhile, was 20 of 36 with 245 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked five times and couldn't get the Bucs' offense going in the second half.
Even Winston was impressed.
''That's an amazing experience to see him,'' Winston said. ''He's been doing it for a long time, so that's expected, for him to have a great game.''
Indianapolis, which has won three straight and remains tied for the AFC South lead, needs Hasselbeck to keep things chugging along until Luck can return from a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle. Luck is expected to miss most of the remainder of the regular season.
But with Hasselbeck in charge, Indy has had no significant drop-off.
Hasselbeck started the second half by setting up 42-year-old Adam Vinatieri for a short field goal to cut a 12-6 halftime deficit in half. Then Hasselbeck took advantage of good field position on Indy's next series and hooked up with T.Y. Hilton for a 19-yard TD pass that gave Indy a 16-12 lead with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
After another Vinatieri field goal made it 19-12 and a fifth was wiped out when Tampa Bay (5-6) was called for leaping, Hasselbeck took advantage of Indy's second chance and found Hilton for a 3-yard TD pass that made it 25-12 with 5:53 to play.
''We're very fortunate to have Matt and Vinny on our team,'' coach Chuck Pagano said. ''We just need him (Hasselbeck) to keep going, stay healthy and keep stacking wins together.''
Here are some things we learned from Sunday's game:
THE LEAP: It's not called often, but the two times it has been in this series were game-changers. In 2003, it gave the Colts a second chance to kick the winning field goal in overtime and allowed Indy to complete an improbable comeback in overtime. This time, Chris Conte's penalty gave Indy a second chance to seal it – and the Colts did it again.
PRESSURE PACKED: The biggest difference in the second half for Indianapolis was that it managed to put consistent pressure on Winston. After getting close to the No. 1 overall draft pick several times in the first half, Indy chased him down four times in the final two quarters.
RUNNING THE SHOW: Winston has benefited from having Doug Martin in the backfield. But after Martin went over the 1,000-yard mark on a 56-yard run to set up Tampa's only touchdown, the Bucs inexplicably made Martin less of a component in the offense. He finished with only 14 carries for 97 yards and had only three touches in the second half.
STILL KICKIN': Vinatieri remains Mr. Clutch. He made all four of his field goals, extending his streak to 16 straight since missing his first two attempts of the season. It doesn't get much better than that.
BIG MO: Both teams entered the weekend with .500 records and two straight wins. Both were looking to use this game as a springboard for a strong finish. Indy has only two games left against teams with winning records – next week at Pittsburgh and Dec. 20 when they host Houston. Tampa Bay, in contrast, may have to win out to make the playoffs.
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