Luck and Colts Rookies Shine in Amazing Comeback

Andrew Luck Colts 607x405

Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck led the Indianapolis Colts to an amazing comeback win over the Detroit Lions, culminating with a a 14-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery who ran it in for the 35-33 win as time expired.

The victory improved their record to 8-4 and put them in prime position for a wildcard berth, an amazing achievement for a team that won just two games all of last year. The big reason for the Colts turnaround this year has been the production from their rookie class.

Andrew Luck went 24-for-54 for 391-yards and threw for four touchdowns, but with three interceptions as he continues to build on his early legend, completing a nine-point comeback.

“I think it was a total team effort,” Luck said. “We put our defense in some bad spots, but they kept fighting and put us in great spots. We just keep playing and good things are starting to happen. I’m just proud to be a part of a resilient team like the Indianapolis Colts.”

After the Lions took a 3-0 lead, the Colts quickly answered back, converting two big third-down plays, one was a 60-yard reception to rookie receiver T.Y. Hilton and then Luck hit Donnie Avery for a 17-yard touchdown pass to go up 7-3. The reception was Hilton’s longest of the season. From then the game would be a seesaw, back and forth thriller that would give new meaning to the phrase “Play 60.”

With 1:48 remaining in the first quarter, Matthew Stafford brought the Lions back into the lead when he connected with underused tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a fantastic 16-yard touchdown reception to take the lead back 10-7.

After the Lions got the ball back, Stafford was methodical on the drive as he completed nine straight passes, including a beautiful one-handed sideline catch by Calvin Johnson before handing the ball to running back Mikel Leshoure for a six-yard scamper to extend the lead 17-7.

Luck, who continues to develop chemistry with his fellow rookies, threw a beautiful pass to rookie tight end Coby Fleener for 26 yards.  It was the first touchdown reception of Fleener’s career and it cut the Lions lead 17-14.

With 8:25 left to go on a  first and 5, Luck threw the first of his three interceptions when he was picked off by Drayton Florence. That led to the second of three field goal (48, 33, and 52) field goals by Jason Hanson before the end of the 2nd quarter, to go into the locker room with a 23-14 halftime lead.

In the beginning of the third quarter Luck threw a 42-yard pass to Donnie Avery before handing the ball off to yet another fellow rookie, running back Vick Ballard, who ran it in for the touchdown from 11-yards out to cut the Lions lead to 23-21.

But the Lions roared right back when Stafford connected with Megatron on a 46-yard touchdown pass on a 3rd and 12 right before the end of the third-quarter. Calvin Johnson had another monster day as he hauled in 13-receptions for 171-receving yards.

“Yeah, he’s a heck of a player,” Stafford said of Johnson. “I even missed him on a couple, could have had a really big day. So still some things to iron out with him but obviously we leaned on him when (WR Ryan) Broyles went down. Then (TE Tony Scheffler) Scheff went down for a little bit so we leaned on him big time.”

Joique Bell ripped off a 67-yard run that led to Jason Hanson making his fourth field goal of the day, a 31-yarder to put the Lions up 33-21 with 8:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.

That’s when Luck began his fifth comeback of his short career.  With 2:43 remaining on first and 10, Luck scrambled before hitting yet another fellow rookie, LaVon Brazill, for a 42-yard touchdown reception. That was Brazill’s only catch of the afternoon, but it cut the Lions lead to 33-28. Luck spread the wealth, connecting with eight different receivers.

The Colts got the ball back with 1:07 left to play and with no timeouts. On a third and 1, Luck threw a 26-yard pass to veteran Reggie Wayne in the traffic of three Lions defenders. With 0:37 seconds remaining on second and 10 Luck was flushed out of the pocket and ran to his right for 16-yards to get the first down and get out of bounds while being chased by Ndamukong Suh.  Then, with 0:18 seconds remaining and another first and 10, Luck dropped back and connected with Reggie Wayne for the game-winner in the endzone but it was knocked out at the last second by Don Carey.

Three plays later with 0:04 seconds remaining on fourth and 10, the Colts had one last shot on what would be the last play of the game, regardless of the outcome.  Luck stepped up in the pocket, looked like he was going to run when no one was open in the end zone, but at the last second he dumped the pass to Donnie Avery who ran in for the game winning touchdown as time expired to win 35-33.

Colts Coach Bruce Arians talked about the progressions of the play.

“Yeah, he was No. 5. We had basically spread everybody across the back of the end zone and ran Donnie (Avery) across the field as an outlet. I was hoping he’d catch it a little closer to the goal line. But we knew they’d sink everybody back in. And I actually thought the game was over on Reggie’s incompletion. It was a great play by Andrew getting out of there, scanning the field. They were, all the receivers going left and Donnie was coming back right.”

The Colts are now 7-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Coach Arians knows why his team refuses to quit each Sunday.

“Our guys are fighters, man. They’re resilient. They don’t quit. They believe next man up. We were down to no offensive lineman left and A.Q. (Shipley) went in and played his tail off at guard. Guys kept stepping up, offensively, defensively. Guys jumped in that we just learned their names Wednesday, played special teams. Yeah, we find a way to win.”

The Colts (8-4) will now host the Tennessee Titans (4-8) while Lions (4-8) travel to Green Bay to take on the 8-4 Packers.


Game Notes:

-          With the victory, Bruce Arians is now tied for third in NFL history for a coach who has filled in during the season for a still active coach. Hamp Pool tallied a 9-2 record with the Los Angeles Rams in 1952, Wally Lemm posted a 9-0 mark with the Houston Oilers in 1961 and Don Coryell notched an 8-4 record with San Diego in 1978.

-          With 1,428 yards in 12 games (119.0 avg), he now has the most yards through 12 games since WR Lance Alworth has 1,428 in 1965. He is tied for the third-most receiving yards through 12 games in NFL history. While tied with Alworth, he is behind WR Charlie Hennigan with 1,541 in 1961 and WR Crazy Legs Hirsch with 1,495 in 1951 for the most receiving yards through 12 games. Johnson trails the record by 420 yards and needs to average 105.0 yards per game to reach Rice’s record.

-          The last time the Colts logged a game-winning touchdown on the final play of the fourth quarter came on September 30, 1990 at Philadelphia. Quarterback Jack Trudeau completed a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bill Brooks. With 27 pass completions today, QB Matthew Stafford surpassed 1,000 career completions in 41 games. He became the third passer in team history to register 1,000 pass completions (Bobby Layne, 1,074; Scott Mitchell, 1,049). Stafford now has 1,002 career completions.

-          With 27 pass completions today, QB Matthew Stafford surpassed 1,000 career completions in 41 games. He became the third passer in team history to register 1,000 pass completions (Bobby Layne, 1,074; Scott Mitchell, 1,049). Stafford now has 1,002 career completions.

-          Andrew Luck and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson are the first pair of NFL rookie quarterbacks with a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime on the same day. The two join Tim Couch and Matthew Stafford as the only rookies to throw a game-winning touchdown pass with 0:00 on the clock since 1970. Luck’s five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter/overtime are tied with Vince Young and Ben Roethlisberger for the most by a rookie since the AFL-NFL merger.

-          With a 6-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter by RB Mikel Leshoure, the Lions increased the team’s rushing touchdowns on the season to 14, which is the most the Lions have registered since they had 15 in 2000. 

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