INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts keep doing unthinkable things.
They’re winning close games with a rookie quarterback and one of the league’s youngest teams. They’re winning with an interim head coach, and now, they’re on the verge of making it back to the playoffs without Peyton Manning.
And it’s all thanks to a new cast of comeback kids.
You know you have a chance until the last tick goes off the clock with those guys – as long as you can keep it within a manageable striking distance, coach Bruce Arians said Monday describing his experiences with three quarterbacks he’s coached: Andrew Luck, Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
Manning and Roethlisberger have the Super Bowl rings to prove it. Luck doesn’t have his ring yet, but his résumé is getting stronger each week.
He’s led the Colts to last-minute winning drives against Green Bay and Minnesota, an overtime win at Tennessee and, on Sunday, delivered another masterpiece with two TD passes in the final 2:39 to rally Indianapolis from a 33-21 deficit to a stunning 35-33 win at Detroit as time expired. It was the Colts’ first winning score with no time left since 1990.
They don’t know no better, don’t know any better, man, veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne said after the game. They just know to just keep playing, at the end of the game, just see the way we fall out. That’s a credit just to the coaches.
Just keeping the guys into it, keeping them to play toward the end and guys just go out there and keep fighting and fighting till it’s all over.
It also explains why the Colts are closing in on an improbable playoff trip.
If Indianapolis beats Tennessee (4-8) at home Sunday, all the Colts would need to clinch a postseason spot is one more win and a conference loss by either Cincinnati (6-5) or Pittsburgh (6-5).
Since the franchise moved to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts have made the playoffs just three times without Manning.
But with only two teams outside of the AFC’s four division leaders having fewer than seven losses, and because Indy hasn’t played either the Bengals or Steelers, the tiebreaker would be based on AFC record. With two wins in their last four games, the Colts would be 10-6 overall and 7-5 against the AFC. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, who play Dec. 23 in Pittsburgh, already have five losses each against AFC foes.
Indy closes the season by hosting Tennessee, visiting Houston and Kansas City before facing the Texans in a Dec. 30 rematch at Lucas Oil Stadium – a game the Colts have pegged as the possible return for head coach Chuck Pagano, who left the team in September after being diagnosed with leukemia.
Arians said Pagano is expected to complete his third and final round of chemotherapy today and he could be back at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, though Arians said it would be tough because this is when Pagano’s white blood-cell count is expected to drop.