INDIANAPOLIS — Anthony Castonzo got his wish.
About an hour before kickoff Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field in Orchard Park, N.Y., a small batch of snow flurries quickly turned into an all-out blizzard.
In no time at all, inches of snow covered the turf — and game plans were being shred to pieces.
Naturally, Castonzo — one of the best run-blocking tackles in all of football — was eating it all up. With near-whiteout conditions for a good portion of the game, both teams, but particularly the Colts, had to employ a run-heavy approach in Sunday's game, which, due to the weather, as well as the adjustments made on both sides, turned into quite the compelling matchup.
In the end, however, the Bills would send their frozen-solid fans home a happy bunch, as LeSean McCoy broke free for a 21-yard walkoff touchdown run in overtime to defeat the Colts, 13-7, in one of the franchise's more entertaining games in recent memory.
"I can't remember having that much fun playing football," said Castonzo, who helped pave the way for 163 rushing yards, the most in a game for the Colts this season. "That was a lot of fun, obviously, we'd like the result to be better. I wished for a heavy snowstorm and we got it, and I was happy with that aspect of things."
For an afternoon during a tough season — the Colts' loss on Sunday officially eliminated them from postseason contention — the men on the field were able to be boys, slipping, sliding and simplifying the game to one-on-one battles against the opponent and the wintry conditions that will likely leave more than a foot of lake effect-fed snow in the Western New York region.
The deluge of frozen precipitation led to the Colts starting the game with 17 consecutive rushing plays — they didn't even attempt a single pass play in the first quarter — which allowed the offensive linemen to figure things out in terms of footing and traction as much as they could.
"It's like you're a kid again," Castonzo added. "We were just talking about the fact that game plans kind of get thrown out the window, and it just becomes man-on-man football playing in the snow. I don't think there's anything more fun than that."
Not everybody on the Colts' roster had experience playing in those kind of conditions prior to Sunday's game, however — namely, quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
So while the Colts' offense leaned heavily on the run game in the first half, Brissett was able to use the second half to begin to feel his way around when it came to approaching some opportunities in the passing game. It wasn't always a pretty operation, but Brissett and his receivers eventually began to figure it out — and in the nick of time.
Trailing 7-0 with 11:09 left in the fourth quarter, Brissett led the Colts on an astounding 19-play, 77-yard drive that took 9:53 off the clock. On that possession, Brissett completed 7-of-9 passes for 52 yards, including a three-yard touchdown to tight end Jack Doyle. An offensive pass interference call wiped out a two-point conversion pass from Brissett to Doyle, but Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri was somehow able to connect on a 43-yard extra-point attempt, assessed after the penalty, to tie the game at 7 with 1:20 remaining in regulation.
"It was crazy," said Brissett, who finished his day 11-of-22 passing for 69 yards and a touchdown. "I've never played (a game) in this in my life, or played in the snow. Every time it snowed, I was in the house. It was definitely a different experience, something to put on the résumé and check off the box."
After the game, as the Colts' players and coaches began the thawing-out process, there were plenty of questions about Sunday's snow storm and its effect on the game.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said the team had received reports that heavy snow was a possibility throughout the day, so he leaned on the experience of a couple coaches on staff who had previously been with the Bills. But with inches of snow on the ground, poor visibility and heavy, swirling winds, he's left with few realistic plays to call.
"We got guys on our staff that have coached here. Sanjay [Lal] was here last year, Host [Jim Hostler] spent time here," Pagano said. "Coming up here and playing in December, anything can happen. Whether it happened or it didn't happen, there's not a pair of cleats out there that's going to work in that better than any other ones."
Running back Frank Gore, who in a Hall of Fame career had never carried the ball more times (36 times) than he did on Sunday, said he was proud of the effort by his team in the tough conditions.
"I just wish we would've got the win," said Gore, who had a season-best 130 rushing yards on the day. "I think, as a team, we played hard, especially (with) the circumstances. They got up, and we kept fighting, finding ways, trying to make plays to get this game. … I take my hat off to all my teammates, man, especially coming out today. We're not used to this type of weather, but we came out fighting."