Sunday, January 5, 2014
Luck does it again when it really matters
By Mike Wells
Colts QB Andrew Luck recovers a fumble to score a fourth-quarter touchdown from 5 yards out.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis quarterback coach Clyde Christensen and backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, with the urging of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, gathered with starter Andrew Luck at the team hotel on the eve of their wild-card game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
This wasn't one these meetings where they gathered in a dark room to watch some more game film. It was more of a heart-to-heart talk between the quarterback coach, the veteran quarterback and the franchise player.
Christensen wanted to make sure Luck wasn't too amped up for his second career playoff game.
"Clyde compared it to the Indianapolis 500," Hasselbeck said. "Don't come out too fast and do something stupid early in the game that takes us out of the race. Ironically, we started well. Then things changed for a little bit."
The Colts looked like they were going to crash out early and have their season end in embarrassment at Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck, the kid who never gets rattled, lost some of his composure as the interceptions increased and the deficit grew.
Then he reverted back to the quarterback who all too often told his teammates not to think about losing because they wouldn't stop playing until the clock had all zeroes on it.
In what's become the norm for Luck during his young career, he shook off his three interceptions and did something that's happened only one other time in playoff history, leading the Colts back from a 28-point deficit to beat the Chiefs 45-44.
"He's a second-year guy, so technically he's still a kid in the league, but he plays like a grown man," Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. "As long as we have 12, we have a chance."
As crazy as it might sound, the fact Luck led the Colts to the come-from-behind victory isn't surprising. The Colts have won seven games in which they've trailed by double-digits in 34 games as Luck as their quarterback.
It's the 28-point deficit they came back from that's surprising. That's the second-largest comeback in playoff history. Luck finished 29-of-45 for 443 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
He capped off the comeback when he took a step up in the pocket and found receiver T.Y. Hilton streaking downfield for a 64-yard touchdown with less than five minutes left in the game.
"He kept telling us, even at 38-10, 'We're going to win this game,'" offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo said.
Luck has never been one to show much emotion when things go wrong during the game. But there he was, slapping both hands on the ground as he lay there after one of his interceptions and slapping his hands together as he ran off the field after throwing his third interception.
That's how bad things were going for the Colts and their franchise player. They looked like they were on their way to another one-and-done in the playoffs.
"Yeah, I was disappointed in myself, angry," Luck said. "Really felt like I was letting the team down, especially after I think we got a little momentum on some of those, then I go up there and throw a pick and sort of set everything back. I was angry. You got to flush it. You got to forget about it."
You would have never known Luck made those mistakes when he told his teammates to stay calm because they still had a chance to win the game, despite the large deficit.
As crazy as it sounds, it was all about patience despite the 28-point hole.
"He's not giving you a bunch of bulls--- when he says that stuff," Castonzo said. "At no point does he not believe we're not going to win. He's led us on a lot of comebacks for a reason. The guy does not freak out."
There was some luck involved in this comeback. After running back Donald Brown fumbled, the ball bounced off of center Samson Satele's helmet, Luck picked it up and ran in from 5 yards out.
"I sort of set Donald up for failure a little bit there," Luck said. "It was a loaded box and I called a run. I was hoping Donald would do one [of] his amazing plays like he'd been doing all game. It didn't happen. Sort of saw the ball there and I think you revert back to playground whatever. Pick it up and try to score."
That was the indication that it was meant to be on this night for Luck and the Colts.
"Andrew kept saying, 'Stay with me, stay with me,'" Colts tackle Gosder Cherilus said. "He willed us to this win."
Or as long snapper Matt Overton put it, "An ESPN Instant Classic."