by Kent Sterling
Because I’m battling the flu while my wife and son are at a wedding reception, I sat in my house alone watching the Colts vs. Chiefs. I’ve never enjoyed a Colts game more.
The Indianapolis Colts trailed the snakebite Kansas City Chiefs 38-10, and statistically were dead in the water. But, as Colts play-by-play voice Bob Lamey would say, “No one told Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano.”
Only the delusional still held out hope that despite two second half interceptions, the Colts could come back to win a game against a playoff team after being behind by 28 points. The largest postseason comeback win in the history of the NFL occurred 21 years ago as the Buffalo Bills beat the Houston Oilers after being behind 35-3, but the result of this game was even more extraordinary because of the two second half picks from Luck.
It made NBC analyst look like an ill-prepared schmuck when he said “the Colts aren’t built to come back.” Really?
Not to be outdone, ESPN’s Mark Schlereth tweeted the following:
this Indy beat down has SEC fans wondering…Could Bama beat the Colts?
— mark schlereth (@markschlereth) January 4, 2014
T.Y. Hilton was spectacular as he caught 13 balls for 224 yards, and Donald Brown again reaffirmed the Colts decision not to waive him during the preseason when it seemed like he might be the odd man out.
This comeback will be discussed forever by Colts fans because of the signature play of Luck’s young career. That play is the incredible fumble recovery by Luck on a Donald Brown run second and goal run from the Chiefs two. The ball squirted loose from Brown’s usually reliable grasp, and bounced to Luck on the five yard line with 10:42 left in the game with the Colts down 41-31. He not only grabbed it but lunged for the end zone, and stuck the ball comfortable across.
If the Chiefs recover, it’s still 41-31 and the Chiefs have the ball. Luck scores, and all of a sudden it’s 41-38 with plenty of time to make the night of magic complete.
Luck was 29-45 for 443 yards, 4 TDs and 3 Ints, but this game had as much to do with statistics as an Ernest Hemingway novel is judged based upon word count.
This was a game where a passionate competitor looked at the scoreboard, the ever growing Chiefs injury list, and decided that playing to win while down 28 would be a hell of a lot more fun than conceding.
All the great stories in sports trace their magical finish back to faith that very few others shared during as the game or match appeared out of reach. Faith has a funny way of spreading, and even the home fans who had seen little reason to hope came to life when Donald Brown found a way into the end zone with 11:47 left in the third to make the score 38-17.
The momentum built. The frenzy began. The Colts earned a victory that an hour earlier was inconceivable except to the people who mattered.
Colts fans have had a lot of practice calculating the math of comebacks as Peyton Manning engineered a handful of the very best in the last generation of NFL play. You could smell the brain cells burning from Fishers. “Okay, if the Colts score here, and get the ball back, they are only a big play away from being two scores behind before the fourth quarter starts. For the Colts, the math was easier – go out there and knock the hell out of somebody, and hope for the best.
The fumble recovery underscores the quality of Luck’s competitive fire and ability to find ways to win. Another former Pac-12 quarterback will forever be known for his “butt fumble.” Luck has stamped his version of a fumble forever into America’s memories. Most quarterbacks would either fall on the ball, or spaz out completely. In Luck’s hands, it became a touchdown that made his teammates and Colts fans everywhere believe in the early January magic they had an opportunity to author.
I felt a little less than savvy continuing to believe and tweet my optimism when they were down by 28, but I genuinely thought the Colts would find a way because of the look on the faces of Luck and Pagano.. This was written when the Colts were down 38-10:
Who remembers the Bills vs. Oilers comeback? Anyone else with me? Let's Gooooooo!
— Kent Sterling (@KentSterling) January 4, 2014
Belief is a mighty thing in the right hands, and regardless of whether the Colts will travel to New England or Denver, the posse getting off the plane with Andrew Luck is going to know they’ve got a hell of a chance, because when in doubt Luck fights like hell.
Can they ride this wave of emotion to a Super Bowl? Who the hell knows. The only important thing tonight is that the Colts have a hell of a lot better chance than they would have if they had been content to go play golf tomorrow.