Ladies and Gentleman, The Winners:
The Indianapolis Colts run onto the field after teammate Donnie Avery scored a touchdown in the closing seconds to defeat the Detroit Lions 35-33 in an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
COLTS WIN COLTS WIN COLTS WIN COLTS WIN COLTS WIN 35-33
Yes, that really happened. Your eyes did not deceive you. Fourth down, four seconds left. Time and hope had been ticking away, then Andrew Luck flipped a short pass to Donnie Avery for the win. Lions players stared in disbelief. Colts players celebrated wildly. Bruce Arians got his headset tangled around his shoe. Fans at home jumped around in their living rooms.
Another fourth quarter comeback for the Colts and their lovable rookie, this time in a game some could argue should not have even been close. Yet, with the Lions seeming to win every phase of the game, Indy never gave up, no matter how horribly they played – and they had some stretches that would have made lesser men write this one off and start thinking about next week.
So how did this maddening game become a memorable one? How did we end up celebrating instead of talking about how this team needs a few more pieces to make the next step? Note: They do need a few more pieces to make that next step, but don’t tell them that. How did this team only convert one third down in the second half, yet win the half – and the game? I do not know if I can answer that last one.
Nevertheless, somehow, this team managed to fight and claw their way to 8-4. They would not be denied, even by their own mistakes.
In the first half, the Lions were 2-6 on third downs but, thanks to big plays all over the field, they held a 23-14 lead gained 256 yards, and held the ball for 19:56. Indianapolis was 3-8 on third downs, with two of those conversions coming on their second drive of the game.
Andrew Luck went 9/19 for 174 yards, with two interceptions to go along with his two touchdowns (he finished 24/54 for 391, 4/3), and the offense averaged two yards per carry running the ball (7/14). Couple that with the defense struggling miserably against Calvin Johnson (8 catches for 83 yards on 11 targets in the first half), and the Detroit tight ends, the first half could’ve been much worse if not for some penalties by the Lions and timely big plays from the Colts defense, and a few big gains from the offense.
In the second half, the Colts came out firing on all cylinders, streaking down the field for an authoritative 80-yard touchdown drive that started and ended with good runs Vick Ballard, who gained 38 and scored his long overdue first career rushing touchdown on an 11-yard rumble. Luck also hit Donnie Avery for a beautiful 42-yard strike on the drive. It looked as though the Colts had snapped out of their funk, closing the deficit to 21-23.
The defense, as they had all game, struggled to stop the Lions but still came up with a strategically important stop on the next drive. They pressured Stafford, who had too much time for most of the day, and Vontae Davis sniffed out a wide receiver screen, stopping the Lions’ receiver Thomas for a one-yard loss on third and eight. Punt. Opportunity: Colts Offense.
The offense, as they had done for most of the game, failed to capitalize, punting after a jittery three-and-out. The Lions came right back with a three and out of their own, once again setting up the Colts offense with an opportunity to seize the momentum, and the lead. Pressure, pressure, pressure, from the Lions once again led to a three and out.
The defense had bailed out a struggling offense twice in a row (with some help from miscues by Detroit), but the offense failed to take advantage. On Detroit’s next drive, they ran out of gas, and the Lions went up 30-21 on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson, who would finish with13 catches for 171 yards.
In the fourth quarter, the defense stepped up again, following up a three and out by Luck and the offense by forcing their own. As the team failed to capitalize on another seemingly improbable stop of the once hot Detroit offense, there developed a feeling that the Colts might not be able to overcome a two score lead in the fourth quarter. Detroit tacked on a field goal with 8:41 left to stretch their lead to 33-21.
After another interception by Andrew Luck, it seemed that all hope was slipping away. However, just as they would never believe anyone who says they’re not good enough to be where they are, Indianapolis Colts once again rose to the occasion. And, oh, it was it fun to watch.
After the Indy defense forced yet another punt from the Lions, the Colts’ rattling, sputtering offense took the field with 4:02 to play, trailing 33-21 and virtually unable to protect their gun slinging rookie in the pocket. Yet, ever confident and nearly unshakeable, Luck and the Colts offense suddenly came to life and went screaming down the field for an 8-play 77 yard touchdown drive that only took 1:23 off the clock. Rookie Receiver Lavon Brazill beat Drayton Florence deep for his first NFL touchdown, a 42 yarder from Luck, who was running for his life on the play. Brazill’s first TD could not have come at a better time.
When the exhausted defense once again trotted onto the field, the Lions had a chance to put the game away. However, somehow, even when things went terribly wrong, the Colts found a way to recover. On 2nd and 7, gigantic, unstoppable receiver Calvin Johnson ran open deep down field, but never saw the ball coming his way. Cassius Vaughn of the Colts however committed pass interference on the play, giving Detroit another first down.
The Colts didn’t sulk or point fingers. They just kept fighting, finally forcing a punt after some great tackling by Bethea, Redding, and Jerrell “Baby Ray” Freeman. Punt. Opportunity: Colts Offense…kind of.
You know the rest. It was beautiful, like the end of a movie about indomitable underdogs who never gave up. Here is the game-winning drive, courtesy of ESPN”
A scramble for 9 yards. Spike. Less than a minute left. Time, and hope are ticking away.
Then Luck hit Reggie Wayne for 26 yards. Spike.
Luck scrambled again, this time heading down the sideline for 16 yards.
After another 10-yard gain by Dwayne Allen, it looked like the magic had worn off. After two straight incompletions, a smart throw away and a bad throw to Wayne in double coverage, Detroit called a time out with eight seconds left. Luck tried to hit Avery in the end zone third down, but it went incomplete.
Four seconds left. Winning time, as they say in basketball. And few people rise up at winning time in football like this rookie kid out of Stanford. Luck, under pressure as he had been all day, scrambled to his right and flipped the ball to Donnie Avery. With Luck under pressure, Avery had run to his side, possibly by design, and followed his quarterback under duress. It was a smart veteran move that resulted in the game winning touchdown, as he sprinted into the end zone.
As the Colts jumped around in jubilation, the frustration of the rest of the game melted away. 35-33, COLTS. They played their best when it mattered most.
Despite being 8-4 and in the hunt for the playoffs, this team has some serious concerns (starting with the offensive line). But don’t tell them that. They refuse to give up. They stubbornly believe. And with Luck on their side, why shouldn’t they?
Update - "Really and update?" you ask. Yes. For anyone who feels they could just watch that game-winning touchdown over and over again, here is a GIF from Deadspin.com and Gawkerassets.com that will let you do just that: Colts Last Second Touchdown
The play of the game won't appear on any stat sheets. On an out pattern in the 2nd quarter Luck threw an INT. The guy had a clear field ahead of him and several blockers. Not a Colt in sight -- except Luck, who tore hell-bent for the guy. Not only knocked him out of bounds but drew a blocking-in-the-back penalty.
So instead of 6 points it was first and ten around the 35. The dee held, the Lions got only a field goal. Colts wound up winning by two.
While I sort of cringed to see the franchise throwing himself into the line of fire like that, it's clear that Luck is a rare and extraordinarily talented player. Like Peyton, he's carrying on his shoulders a team that, let's face it, has a lot of holes. As Luck goes, so go the Colts. All the way to the... hhhmmm...
@Questions Authority "tore hell-bent." That's a great description. I've never seen a qb pursue TE tackle after an interception or turnover the way Luck does. I don't know if this link will work it not, but here should be Luck destroying a USC player after a running back fumble. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5STc2_bM7k
@MarcusDugan @Questions Yeah, always loved that play. Speaking of tearing hell-bent, I love how Luck nearly out-paces Avery to the end zone before pulling up just short when he's sees Avery is gonna be in clean. I'm still not certain how nobody on DET reacts until it's too late to stop Donnie. One CB is nearly out of bounds face-guarding Lavon and seems either taken aback by Avery's speed or just a bit hesitant to fully commit to making some effort at a goal-line tackle. The LB on the play blocks another CB's direct route and simply doesn't have the speed himself to catch up. A split second quicker reaction by either of these players, and the play might have turned out completely different. Not that I'm complaining. Watched that replay so many times haha.
@7IHd Maybe those cornerbacks were both confused by Luck running at them alongside Avery and concerned that #12 was going to blow one of them up. Imagine that. Intimated by a quarterback.
I know the Comparison might not be appreciated, but Luck reminds me a little of Roethlisberger. That tackle in the 2005 playoffs was huge. Say what you like about the guy, but he really competes and is willing to do almost anything to give his team a chance.
We live 3+ hrs outside of Indy. We don't have satellite, we don't even have cable. We still rock the rabbit ears. So I was very excited to find this game being televised on my local CBS station.
But then, with 1:14 left to play, I hear the voice over: "Due to contractual obligations, we will now go to the Bengals game".
I kid you not. The Bengals. Seriously.
I am so thankful for Twitter.
WHAT A WIN TODAY! My dog was terrified/confused/terrified as I ran around the house after the last play. Side note - Is TIM JENNINGS really gonna have the most INTs in the NFL this year?! He has 8, closest guy has 5. Unreal!
This team is getting a reputation for "they might just win!" against pretty much any team. Yes the Patriots was a blow-out, but if we face them in the playoffs again, I think folks in Foxboro might be a little nervous. Not that we have a serious chance. But do we? Nah. But...
I'm pretty sure I'm going to walk out of the shower and someone is going to say the entire season was a dream.
Are you kidding me? This was the comeback kid revisited. A rookie quarterback is not suppose to be doing these kinds of things in his first year. But, Luck is an unusual rookie, or is not a rookie anymore. He is playing like a poised veteran, like Peyton in his prime. Can someone explain to me why you don't double team Johnson the whole game, and let someone else beat you? This win was a gravy train heading into the last quarter of the season. The colts' should be able to get two out of the next four, and get into the playoffs with ten wins.
Wow, just wow. One of the key stats (and changes for us) is that WE found the endzone repeatedly while the other team found FGs. I had been concerned about our big yardage gains but limited TDs previously. Let's hope this is a bit of a scoring trend.
Bad (but impressive, in a way) trend: Suh was credited with eight QB hits and Det got a total of 13 IIRC. Luck will not survive three seasons like that. But amazing what he does under that kind of pressure. How many other QBs would have turned those 13 QB hts into about eight or more sacks? The kid is amazing.
Need a nickname for Avery, who vacillates between goat and hero from week to week--Gero? Hoat? GoPro Hero3? (which is on my Christmas list this year, in case anybody's buying...) He might drop 75% of his passes one week and then make a huge TD play the next to seal a game. Amazing. I was kind of hoping that Luck would lay down a decisive block on that final play--it looked like he was about to before Avery crossed the goal line. How many QBs manage that! Wow that kid is impressive.
@Bobman1 Your description of Avery is spot on. If he caught a consistent 60-70%, we would be comparing him to Marvin Harrison. But, well, you know. It looked like Luck pulled up when he saw there wasn't any blocking to do. I wish he would've had the opportunity to pancake somebody (without getting a penalty, of course).
They believe...they have no choice. A whole fan base believes in every second of every game. Manning has made a career out of never giving up, and Harbaugh before him got a spot on the ring of honor by toughing out some close ones.
It's a fan base that also rooted for those magical Butler runs, during which you could see, though outmatched, outscored, against more talented teams, they never doubted, let alone gave up.
They represent the city where Reggie Miller played. A city that knew better than to give up on it's star in any situation, immune to ever thinking a game is over until the last seconds tick off the clock.
They are from the state where the legends tell of underdog high schools toppling the bigger neighbors, where, any game, any sport, anyone could win, even before the divisions intruded on the fun.
These Colts are never allowed to stop believing. Every fan...all of us, have grown accustomed to believing, always, unconditionally, no matter what the stats say, and no matter how dark things get. They must believe, every one of them, because so do we, every one of us.