INDIANAPOLIS – FLEENER AND BRAZILL SCORE FIRST CAREER TOUCHDOWNS – Getting off to a fast start has been a point of emphasis on the road all season long for the Indianapolis Colts.
A 7-3 first quarter lead for the Colts quickly turned into a 17-7 deficit after Lions running back Mike Leshoure scored on a six-yard run with 11:27 left in the first half.
Down by 10 points and needing a score to keep the momentum for Detroit at bay, the Colts turned to their rookie tight end combination.
Dwayne Allen took a screen pass 40 yards on the first play following the Leshoure touchdown, setting the Colts up at the Lions 40-yard line.
After a pair of five-yard penalties on the Lions, rookie running back Vick Ballard carried the ball for four yards to move the offense down to the 26-yard line.
On the next play, quarterback Andrew Luck found tight end Coby Fleener isolated in man coverage and used the mismatch to his advantage. The six-foot-six-inch Fleener went over Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy and hauled in a 26-yard touchdown, the first of his NFL career.
Fleener made sure to signify the moment with a "jackhammer" celebration that was received by a mix of emotions from his Colts teammates.
"That was sort of embarrassing as a fellow Stanford alum, but he got a touchdown so I can't complain," Luck said with a smile to media attending the game.
The touchdown catch for Fleener was his lone grab on the afternoon. He was playing his first game since suffering a shoulder injury against the Titans on October 28.
It was about quality over quantity for Fleener and fellow rookie receiver LaVon Brazill, who also made the most out of his only catch.
With the Colts needing scores quickly and in the two-minute offense, Brazill saw extended playing time in the fourth quarter.
On a first-and-10 from the Detroit 42-yard line with 2:47 left and the Colts trailing by 12 points, Luck eluded the Lions pass rush and with a defender in pursuit, heaved a deep pass into the end zone. Brazill slipped behind the Lions secondary and made a leaping catch that brought the Colts within 33-28.
"I sort of moved around a little bit in the pocket and I guess the defender's eyes got on Reggie (Wayne) maybe and LaVon just kept on running and did a heck of a job going up for the football," Luck said. "That was obviously a big moment for us to go within one score and have a chance."
DEFENSIVE STOPS IS WHERE THE COMEBACK ALL STARTED –It is a play that will not find its way onto a Colts highlight tape anytime soon, but it definitely should not be forgotten.
With the Lions leading 30-21 with just more than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Colts defense knew giving up a touchdown (and thus a 16-point lead) could be a back breaker.
Detroit running back Joique Bell ripped off a 67-yard run down to the Indianapolis 13-yard line, but it was the effort by Colts cornerback Cassius Vaughn to run down Bell in the open field that allowed his defensive unit to hold the Lions to just three points on the drive.
"If you break out, we'll be back there to stop it, so we're going to run no matter what," Vaughn said. "Me and Joe (Lefeged) we end up trying to get him. He got him first and I came and got him, and that's a four-point swing. That's the little part of the game."
Following that drive, the Colts defense forced a pair of punts by the Lions to close out the game.
"We defended every blade of grass and when they kick field goals, they are leaving us in the ballgame," interim head coach Bruce Arians said.
With the Indianapolis offense sputtering a bit in the second half, it was up to the defense to continue to create opportunities. The unit did that with Detroit having to punt five times in the second half.
"We take a lot of pride in that," defensive end Cory Redding said of the stops. "When our number is called, we expect to get the offense the ball back. We went out there numerous times and did it."
The grit showed by quarterback Andrew Luck to bounce back from three interceptions will dominate the headlines, but it is the complete effort shown by both the offense and the defense that led to the Colts moving to 8-4 on Sunday afternoon.
"It just shows the character of this team, the character of the coaches and the whole organization," safety Antoine Bethea said. "Just to continue to fight and never let up."