INDIANAPOLIS — The boxscore will show an interception from Kenny Moore II leading to a 25-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri.
But let’s take a closer look at the Indianapolis Colts’ Week 17 Drive of the Game, presented by Hays + Sons:
The Indianapolis Colts’ Week 17 matchup against the Tennessee Titans was flexed to primetime and Sunday Night Football for this very reason: two divisional rivals battling it out for the chance to advance to the postseason. The stakes were simple: win and you’re playing next week; lose and you’re watching from your couch.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the game play ended up matching its intense pregame narrative.
Yes, 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.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of these big kicks he is making at big times,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said of Sanchez on Monday. “I mean it is just clutch performance. I mean late in games when we really need something he is coming up with a play that is massive. I mean these are massive plays for our team and I just really think he is having a phenomenal year.”
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.