Indianapolis took a small step in the direction of a far larger goal Sunday – making the playoffs.
All they need now is another win.
With Chuck Pagano watching within Lucas Oil Stadium for the 3rd straight home game, and a sold-out crowd ready to celebrate, the Colts rallied behind Andrew Luck’s stable play and Adam Vinatieri’s robust right foot to rally from a 13-point halftime deficit for a 27-23 victory over the Titans.
”It feels great,” outside LB Dwight Freeney declared. ”Obviously, night and day compared with last year. The feeling round the locker room is amazing, but that having been said, by no means am I or are we satisfied with where we are.”
That feeling could change shortly.
Sunday’s losses by Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers put the Colts on the cusp of another extraordinary landmark in this striking turn-about season. With one win in their last 3 games, Indy (9-4) would become the 2nd team in league history to lose 14 or even more games one season and make the playoffs the next. Miami did it in 2008.
And surprisingly, just getting in isn’t all that’s at stake for the Colts. There’s still a long shot chance they could win the division – if Indy sweeps its last 3 games, 2 against Houston, and the Texans lose either Monday night at New England or December 23 against Vikings. Las Vegas odds
But the Indianapolis Colts are so young; they’re still trying to work out all of the nuances about this playoff chase.
”I’ll talk to Reggie (Wayne), talk to coaches that have been there,” Andrew Luck said. ”They’ll let us know how it is.”
The hotshot rookie has spent the first 13 weeks showing everyone how good he is and though the numbers weren’t sensational Sunday, the result was pretty much the same.
Luck already has six f4th-quarter comebacks this season, one more than Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 and Vince Young in 2006 – the highest single-season total by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. It came on the same day he passed Peyton Manning for the most yards passing by a rookie in Colts history and moved into 2nd among all NFL beginners, trailing only Carolina’s Cam Newton (4,051 in 2011). Luck has 3,792 yards with 3 games to play.
The milestones don’t end with Luck.
Wayne caught 6 passes for 64 yards and one touchdown, passing Andre Reed for 10th on the career receptions list. Wayne is at 956, 5 more than Reed. And Vinatieri added to his legacy as the NFL’s best clutch kicker with the 53-yarder to give Indy the lead with 6:23 left and a 40-yarder to seal it with 3:48 to go.
Indy has won a league-high 8 one-possession games.
Winning this way is no big deal to the Indianapolis Colts.
”Everyone on the team – offensively, defensively, special teams – just plays football. They’re not worried about the scoreboard too much, not worried about what is going on,” Luck explained. ”They’re aware to the situations, and we just go out there and play football to the best of our abilities. It is not overthinking all of the scenarios.”