INDIANAPOLIS — Our comprehensive look back at the 2018 Indianapolis Colts season continues today with the best drives of the season, presented by Hays + Sons.
5. “Sealing A Victory”
The Colts wrapped up their first victory of the 2018 season in satisfying fashion, using a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 5:56 off the clock and putting the ball in the end zone with a three-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton.
That play, plus the extra point, put the Colts up 21-9 on the host Washington Redskins — which would end up being the final score from FedExField.
After the Indy offense had success in the first half of the game, it ran into a wall for most of its drives in the third and fourth quarter, most of which ended in punts, and one that ended with an avoidable interception.
But with the Colts’ defense holding up its end of the bargain, the other side of the ball needed just one final nail in the coffin, starting at the 25-yard line at the 13:28 mark of the fourth quarter.
This time, the Colts were able to convert two third downs as they worked their way down the field. But facing another third down — 3rd and Goal from the three-yard line — Indy used a well-designed play from head coach Frank Reich to get back into the end zone.
Luck, lined up in the shotgun, brought running back Nyheim Hines in motion, who was out wide to the right, across to his left. On the snap, Luck faked the handoff to Hines, dropped back and looked to his left, where wide receiver Ryan Grant was running a crossing route.
The Redskins kept in stride with Grant going to his left — but completely forgot about Hilton running across the middle to his right.
Luck delivered the pass to Hilton at the 2-yard line, and The Ghost jogged in from there for his second touchdown of the season.
“That was a big call, big-time call and a big-time situation,” Luck said after the game. “We didn’t hesitate. We talked all week about, ‘Hey this is the call we’re going to get to.’ We got it in quick, anticipated it and the guys did a great job of getting T.Y. open."
4. “Earning A Fifth Straight Victory”
The Colts were hot entering their Week 12 matchup against the Miami Dolphins, winners of four straight. But the up-and-down Dolphins were looking to fly home as streak snappers, and jumped out to a 10-point lead by early in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But Indy stormed back, and a 12-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to tight end Eric Ebron tied things at 24. Four minutes and 30 seconds remained on the clock, however — plenty of time for Miami to put together a potential game-winning drive.
But Rigoberto Sanchez’s kickoff, perfectly placed at the front edge of the goal line, was met with perfect coverage by the Colts, as Corey Moore took down returner Senorise Perry at the 16-yard line. A holding penalty on the Dolphins moved the back to their own six.
The Colts’ defense would then limit Miami to just four yards over their three plays, forcing a punt. Chester Rogers took that kick 14 yards to the Indianapolis 42, with 2:38 remaining.
Then Luck worked his magic.
On 3rd and 9 from the Indianapolis 43, Luck took the snap in the shotgun formation and began to scan the field, but quickly felt pressure from all sides. With three Dolphins defenders bearing down on him, Luck attempted to climb the pocket, but began to stumble.
Somehow, Luck regained his footing. And just when everyone in the building thought he was going to take off and try to make a heroic effort to get as close to the first-down marker as possible to keep the drive alive, he zigged instead of zagged.
Somehow, Luck knew to regain his vision down the field and see that Rogers was standing wide open along the left side of the field around the Miami 27-yard line. Rogers hauled in the unlikely pass and was brought down at the 23. Gain of 34.
Three Hines runs for a combined nine yards allowed Reich to take a timeout with three seconds remaining in the game and send Adam Vinatieri onto the field to attempt a game winner from 32 yards out.
Vinatieri missed badly earlier in the game when he chunked a 48-yard attempt, but there would be no such issues on this one.
His kick found the middle of the net just as the game clock struck 0:00, and the Colts continued their postseason push with their fifth straight win.
3. “Only Lead You Need”
If the Colts were going to continue their playoff push into the final week of the season, then they were going to need to earn a home victory over the 5-10 New York Giants.
But throw the records out the window, because the Giants came to play this afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium, forcing the Colts to overcome two separate 10-point deficits.
But as we all know by now, Indianapolis was able to overcome that second deficit, despite some less-than-ideal circumstances.
With a hobbled T.Y. Hilton, and with Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron lost for the game due to a concussion, quarterback Andrew Luck led his troops from their own 47-yard line, down by six points, 27-21, with 3:43 remaining in the game.
With their quarterback delivering strikes with pinpoint accuracy, receivers Hilton, Dontrelle Inman and Chester Rogers got to work. Each caught a pass before the two minute warning, mixed in with a brilliant move by Luck to climb the pocket, avoid pressure and scramble for 14 yards and a first down to get the ball deep into Giants territory.
By the the two-minute warning, the Colts were operating inside the red zone.
After a two-yard loss on a pass to running back Nyheim Hines, the offense quickly got the yardage back, and then some, on the next play on a 12-yard pickup from Luck to Hilton to get the ball to New York’s 8-yard line, setting up 1st and Goal.
Working inside the 10-yard line, Luck took a shot at the end zone, zinging one toward the right side for Inman, who drew a pass interference penalty on the play. The Colts then had 1st and Goal from the Giants’ 1-yard line.
After the call from the sidelines came in to Luck, he scanned New York's alignment and found something he didn't like. He turned to Hilton and Rogers to gauge their interest in a quick passing play, instead.
A few seconds later, the Colts had pulled even on the scoreboard as Luck zipped a pass to the left side to Rogers for the touchdown. Adam Vinatieri’s extra point would then put the Colts ahead by one point, 28-27.
The Colts, now 9-6, had officially played their way into a “win-and-you’re-in” scenario the following week against the Tennessee Titans.
2. “Averting Disaster, Then Cashing In”
We’ll jump ahead a couple weeks, as the Colts have advanced to the postseason to take on their AFC South Division rival, the Houston Texans, in the Wild Card Round at NRG Stadium.
The Colts had jumped out to a 14-0 lead early and were really looking to step on the Texans’ throats, getting inside the Houston 15-yard line again with 12:27 left in the second quarter, when Andrew Luck’s pass was tipped by J.J. Watt and intercepted by nose tackle Brandon Dunn.
But the Indy defense was there to help the team avert disaster, forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing Houston drive.
After a solid 14-yard punt return by Chester Rogers, Indy was set up with 1st and 10 from its own 35. Head coach Frank Reich elected to chip away to begin, as the Colts got six yards on a run play from Jordan Wilkins, and then Marlon Mack got three yards on the next carry. Luck found T.Y. Hilton on 3rd and 1 for three yards to move the chains.
But then came the chunks.
Luck to Dontrelle Inman — 21 yards down the left side of the field.
Luck to tight end Eric Ebron — 15 yards, and now all of a sudden, the Colts were in business at the Houston 18-yard line.
That LTE (Luck-To-Ebron) connection almost paid off on the very next play, as Luck delivered a strike to the tight end in the end zone, but the ball fell to the turf at the last moment.
But on the very next play, though, Luck and Inman went to work.
It’s 2nd and 10, and Luck, lined up in the shotgun, drops back and immediately looks to his left and waits for the play to develop.
That’s because Inman completely fakes out cornerback Shareece Wright with a in-move to his right, and by the time Inman starts heading back to his left, Wright is toast. All it took from there was an on-target throw from Luck in the front-left corner of the end zone, and the Colts had the 21-0 lead they were hoping to get on their previous drive.
Indianapolis would eventually advance to the Divisional Round with a 21-7 victory.
1. “Special Teams, Defense Close Out Titans”
That play against the Texans in the Wild Card Round wouldn’t have been possible without a solid performance in the regular season finale against the Tennessee Titans.
If the Colts won, they advance; if they lose, their season is over. If the Titans won, they advance; if they lose, their season is over.
Pretty cut and dry, I’d say.
The Colts jumped out to what felt like a commanding 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter after two dominating 90-yard drives, but the Titans simply weren’t going to just go away. While Indy came into the contest the hottest team in football, winners of eight of its last nine games, Tennessee wasn’t far behind, having also been through multiple battles along the way to earn the chance at a spot in the postseason.
So then came the seesaw on the scoreboard: 14-7. 17-7. 17-10. 24-10. 24-17.
Now down seven points again, this time early in the fourth quarter, the Titans seemed to have all the momentum, however.
After a 22-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert to tight end Luke Stocker made it 24-17 at the 1:55 mark of the third quarter, the Colts’ offense couldn’t get anything going on its ensuing drive, even after starting off with a 21-yard pass from Andrew Luck to Mo Alie-Cox.
Two plays later, Indy was called for holding; two plays after that, Luck was sacked on third down by rookie Harold Landry.
The Nissan Stadium crowd roared as the rain continued falling down in Nashville.
But Rigoberto Sanchez, as he’s done all season, saved his best work for the most clutch of situations.
The Colts’ punter pulled off a perfect coffin-corner kick that bounced out of bounds at the Tennessee 3-yard line.
Needing 97 yards for a potential game-tying touchdown and extra point, Gabbert and the Titans’ offense started slowly chipping away; an 18-yard completion to wide receiver Corey Davis on the first play, getting them out of the shadow of their own goal post, certainly helped.
Then six yards. Seven yards. Thirteen yards. Two yards. Another two yards.
But with 9:17 to go, Tennessee faced 3rd and 6 from its own 46-yard line. The Titans had converted their only third down of the game, a 13-yard completion to running back Derrick Henry on 3rd and 2, earlier in the drive; but, again, momentum seemed to be on their side.
That was — until it wasn’t.
Tennessee lined up in the shotgun formation with trips to the right, and Gabbert sent Davis into motion from left to right, with cornerback Quincy Wilson following on the other side of the line, signifying man-to-man coverage on the Colts’ end.
On the snap, Gabbert dropped back three steps and had some decent protection, but saw defensive tackle/end Denico Autry inching his way from the inside, so the quarterback pump faked, and escaped to his right. With Autry chasing, Gabbert unleashed a pass on the run that was intended for wide receiver Taywan Taylor around the Indianapolis 35-yard line.
The only problem? Gabbert completely didn’t see Kenny Moore II standing right there in front of him.
The second-year cornerback easily picked off the pass, his team-leading third interception of the season, and returned it 16 yards to the Tennessee 38-yard line.
The Colts would make the Titans pay. Although the offense wouldn’t get into the end zone — getting to as close as the 7-yard line — Adam Vinatieri knocked in a 25-yard field goal with four minutes remaining, pushing Indy’s lead to 10 points, 27-17.
The Titans would collapse on their ensuing drive, but the damage had already been done. Indy added the cherry on top with a Marlon Mack eight-yard touchdown run a couple minutes later, and then linebacker Darius Leonard picked off Gabbert to put a bow on a 33-17, playoff-clinching victory.