INDIANAPOLIS –Last Saturday before heading to Detroit, the Colts honed in on a specific situation.
In the club's weekly "mock game," the final work before playing, Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians called for a scenario that might occur against Detroit. He was right.
"We practice situations and put end-of-the game scenarios in our mock game on Saturdays," said Arians. "This past week (at Detroit), we had the ball at the 14-yard line with 18 seconds left. We had practiced it on the 12-yard line on Saturday with 16 seconds – what plays we were going to run and be able to catch the ball in-bounds and be able to get the next play off. You just have to keep putting work into situations you think might happen."
What occurred at Detroit was that the Colts scored on an 85-yard drive with 2:39 to go, cutting their deficit to 33-28.
A subsequent up-tempo march had Indianapolis at the Detroit 14 with 18 seconds left, and the club was able to snap four plays, the final one a scoring pass from Andrew Luck to Donnie Avery.
It ended what looked to be a madcap effort, but the success was in the design.
"The key is to do just what you practiced. If you don't practice, it's going to be extremely high anxiety," said Arians. "If you practice it correctly, you know what to anticipate."
Under Chuck Pagano, the "mock game" is the final prep. Under Tony Dungy, the two-minute or game-ending approach was done on Thursday's.
In a game where the Colts had to score touchdowns twice in the final two minutes in 2006 to win at the New York Jets, Dungy told Peyton Manning that, "it's just like Thursday's on 56th Street (where the team practiced)."
Arians notes the large number of games that are decided by four points or less is a reason for teams being proficient under the gun. Even before then, he put an emphasis on executing in tight situations.
"It always has been (an emphasis) with me," said Arians. "You want to be a great two-minute team because you want to be able to go up-tempo at any point of a game. You want to score in critical times. It's not just two-minute drives, it's the situations that occur in those drives."
In the drives at Detroit, Luck was seven-of-16 for 112 yards, counting two spikes. He rushed three times for 33 yards.
It marked the fifth win for the Colts in the fourth quarter or overtime this year, along with allowing the Colts to become only the seventh team since 2000 to win when trailing by 12 or more points with 3:00 remaining. The Colts accounted for two of the other times when winning at Tampa Bay in 2003 and against New England in 2009.
Against Minnesota this year, the Vikings tied the game at 20 with 31 seconds left. The Colts zipped 45 yards quickly for a winning field goal with eight seconds left.
"When you have 30 seconds and need to go 50 yards to kick a field goal, you have to practice that. It just doesn't happen," said Arians. "If you have the ability to play well in the two-minute mode at the end of the half and game, you're going to have a chance to win a lot of ballgames."