The general angst that was being felt by Colts fans gave way to downright panic Sunday morning when it was announced that the shoulder problem starting quarterback Andrew Luck had been dealing with would prevent him from playing against Jacksonville. So many things were riding on the outcome of this game: the Colts 14 game winning streak within the division, a possible 1-3 start, and any hope of postseason football.
Enter veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck, who managed the offense, not flawlessly, but effectively. He completed 30 of 47 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and marched the Colts into Adam Vinatieri field goal range as the Colts held off Jacksonville in overtime at Lucas Oil Stadium 16-13.
For the most part, this game wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t ugly.
It was pretty ugly.
Neither team seemed able to close the game out. Jacksonville held a 13-10 lead at halftime, but couldn’t get anything consistent going offensively in the second half.
Following Vinatieri’s game tying field goal at the 12:32 mark of the fourth quarter, the two teams exchanged five punts, and a turnover by Frank Gore, before Myers initial miss with one second left in regulation, necessitating the overtime.
The Colts (2-2) failed to produce a 100 yard rusher for the 44th consecutive game. That’s almost three full seasons worth. On Sunday, for much of the game, Colts running back Frank Gore was barely averaging a yard a carry, which Colts coach Chuck Pagano credited to the Jaguars defense.
“Really good defense,” he said. “They really loaded up the box. If you read the clippings this week, they were saying ‘we gotta get back to being us,’ they loaded up the box and played man coverage. They mixed in some zones and blitzes and pressured here and there, but that was some tough sledding. There’s gonna be some days like this. But we kept churning and grinding.”
Gore finished the day with 53 yards on 17 carries and the other high priced offseason acquisition, Andre Johnson, did not catch a pass and was targeted only twice.
The grinding paid off in the overtime, after Jacksonville (1-3) rookie kicker Jason Myers missed on two opportunities to win the game, once in regulation and once in overtime, as Hasselbeck found his favorite target on the day, Coby Fleener for a 28 yard gain to get into Jaguar territory. Following a four yard bootleg run by Hasselbeck, Gore finally broke free, cutting left and finding daylight down to the Jaguar 7 yard line. Following a kneel down to line up his kicker by Hasselbeck, Vinatieri drilled the game winning 27 yard field goal to, for now, save the Colts season.
Fleener finished the day with nine catches for 83 yards and the only touchdown of the game for Indianapolis. Hasselbeck joked after the game that targeting Fleener so much was to make up for the morning drive to the game.
‘We drove to the game today,” the 16 year veteran quipped. “But (linebacker) D’Qwell Jackson called shotgun, so I think Coby was a little offended. I promised him a few extra passes.”
The Colts now face a short week as they travel to Houston for a Thursday night game against another division rival. Pagano said the celebration for today’s win will be very brief and refused to speculate on Luck’s availability against the Texans.
“We don’t have much time,” he said. “We gotta go to work. We have another tough divisional game on the road this Thursday at Houston. We’re gonna look at the film, clean up what we can clean up and go try to get another win.”
So Colts fans can breathe a little easier, the team is now 2-2 and in sole possession of first place in their division. That division appears to be the weakest in football again and the Colts have a great chance to head to the playoffs again.
But Andrew Luck’s health may be a question mark going forward.
Still, Hasselbeck filled in admirably today and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to do so, if needed. So come in from the ledge, things are better than a week ago.
But, maybe leave the window open.