INDIANAPOLIS – SPECIAL PERFORMANCE FROM ALL THREE UNITS – Looking to rebound from a subpar performance against the Patriots, the Colts special teams made the difference on Sunday afternoon.
In particular, the Colts punt coverage and return units had an extremely successful day by putting points on the board and limiting the best punt returner in the league.
Rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton entered the NFL with a reputation as an electric player in the return game, and he has been itching to showcase those skills all season long.
Hilton put together his total package with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the first quarter to give the Colts a lead they would not relinquish.
"We came together as a special teams unit and made the blocks when we needed to make them," safety Joe Lefeged said. "We took care of their gunners and we were able to get a return."
Lefeged was a part of a punt coverage unit that downed a pair of punts inside the 20-yard line, while Pat McAfee logged a 46.4 net punting average.
Facing the top punt returner in the league in Leodis McKelvin, the special teams unit focused this week on erasing the mistakes from the Patriots game. It did so in holding McKelvin to just two punt returns.
"We emphasized this week me angling the ball out of bounds more," McAfee said. "My coverage team was so awesome, and it's so much fun to be a part of. Sergio (Brown) and Joe Lefeged are the two best gunners in the NFL."
When Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson and Head Coach Chuck Pagano were hired back in January, the special teams unit was near the top of the list in improvements.
Sunday's effort showed exactly what Owner and CEO Jim Irsay was looking for from that unit.
"In the beginning when this thing was put together, Chuck (Pagano) built everything on team. I think that was a team victory right there," Colts interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said.
"All phases, our special teams showed up huge. I thought they won the game for us. Not only with the return for the touchdown and the field position they created but how well they covered. Those are two great returners. We asked Pat (McAfee) to have his best game ever as a kicker and he really contributed. He kicked the ball great."
WAYNE CONTINUES TO ETCH HIS NAME IN THE RECORD BOOK –While fellow wide receiver T.Y. Hilton provided the highlights on Sunday afternoon, his neighbor in the locker room once again was re-writing the history books.
Wayne had eight catches for 102 yards against the Bills and moved past Derrick Mason for 11th place on the NFL's all-time receptions list (946). Wayne's 102 receiving yards gives him 12,813 for his career, which places him 14th on the league's all-time list.
With the Colts capturing their fifth home game in six contests this season, the fact that Wayne achieved these marks in a winning effort was what mattered most to him.
"I want to win games. Everything else will come," Wayne said. "At the same time, whenever you play 12 years, you're bound to do something. There's something coming. I'm happy to just still be playing and playing with a good group of guys."
Late in the second quarter on Sunday, Wayne recorded his third of eight catches on the afternoon. With the reception, Wayne set an NFL record with a streak of 59 straight games with at least three catches.
At times this season Wayne has been joined by all rookies around him at the skill positions. He has provided a voice for the young players all year long, but it is his work ethic on and off the field that allows him to routinely put up such numbers at the age of 34.
"Whenever you go out and, keep being consistent, that's big," Wayne said. "I want to be available whenever my number is called."
LUCK TIES WINS RECORD FOR NO. 1 PICK –With the Colts earning their seventh win of the season on Sunday, quarterback Andrew Luck tied Rams quarterback Sam Bradford for the most wins by a quarterback drafted No. 1 overall since 1970.
It was another nail-biting fourth quarter for Luck and the Colts, but a two-touchdown lead established in the third quarter provided a cushion.
After the Indianapolis defense forced a Bills punt to begin the second half, the Colts offense embarked on a 15-play, 87-yard drive that ended with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton catching an eight-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-goal.
The 8:04 drive proved to be the difference in the Colts earning the 20-13 victory, and it is that drive that Luck wants to see continue in the final month of the regular season.
"I think that was definitely our best drive of the game and it ended with a touchdown, obviously," Luck said. "We need more of those drives."
As the accolades continue to pile up for Luck, the rookie quarterback deflected looking at the victory record he has set. Instead, he focused on a 7-4 team that is leading the AFC Wild Card hunt.
"We understand the position we're in, but, again, nothing has been accomplished yet. (It's) on to the next one, glad to get a 'W' out here in front of the home fans at Lucas Oil," Luck said.