INDIANAPOLIS – What Chuck Pagano said on Wednesday was on full display Sunday afternoon.
“Our leaders, they got to step up and they will step up. They’ll lead us,” Pagano said during his weekly Wednesday press conference.
With 429 games and 29 combined years of NFL experience, those two “leaders” knew what was at stake on Sunday and delivered in a gargantuan way.
There was Vinatieri tying a career-high with five field goals (four from at least 45 yards) as the future Hall of Famer accounted for all the Colts points through the game’s first 58 minutes.
“Those are by no mean chip shots,” Colts quarterback
“To have a security blanket like that…it makes a big difference, it really does. Especially when we’re struggling like that and can’t put a touchdown on the board early, to have that really keeps that momentum going for you.”
And then there’s Mathis, who recorded his NFL-best 41st career strip/sack when his right arm came crashing down on Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the third quarter.
Vinatieri would kick his fifth and final field goal after the Mathis turnover and the Colts 15-14 lead would be enough thanks to yet another game-changing play by No. 98.
“We’ve got a lot of playmakers on this team and he’s definitely one of them,” safety
“He’s been doing it at a high level for many years so I tip my hat off to him and I’m just glad I’m part of his squad.”
The five field goals for Vinatieri marks the first time he has reached that mark since a 15-6 Colts win over the Baltimore Ravens during the 2007 Playoffs.
With his 16 points on the afternoon, Vinatieri tied an NFL record with 16 seasons of at least 100 points.
“You never know before the game starts, you never know how it’s going to go and you never know how much you are going to be needed,” Vinatieri said of his club-record five field goals on Sunday.
“Today was one of those days where you were needed and used a bunch today. I was happy to help our team and contribute to the victory.”
As the game balls were handed out following the Colts 22-14 win on Sunday, a pair found the hands of the most experienced guys in the room.
Vinatieri and Mathis have played meaningful games in the winter a few times in their illustrious careers and they hope to add a few more over the next couple of months.
The Colts are on the verge of clinching the AFC South (magic number is 1) and on a day when the division could have swayed either direction, it was their leaders making sure Indianapolis had the final word.
“We needed this win. We really did,” Vinatieri, the 18-year veteran, said after the game.
“We’ve been playing some up-and-down football lately. We found a way to get a win. It’s just one more game in a long season but you have to do that, you have to put those together and you have to keep building off those.”