INDIANAPOLIS – In the Colts' first two game-winning drives this season, it was the arm of quarterback Andrew Luck and the hands of his receivers that put Indianapolis in position for final-minute victories.
In week two against Minnesota, 20-yard strikes to Donnie Avery and Reggie Wayne gave Adam Vinatieri a chance to convert a 53-yard game-winning field goal.
Two weeks later against Green Bay, Luck and Wayne hooked up five times on the game-winning drive, the last of which resulting in a four-yard touchdown for the 30-27 win.
On Sunday, the Colts offense was back at it, taking the field to start overtime after just driving 80 yards late in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 13.
Facing a stiff Nashville breeze, the Colts decided to lean on a running game that was having one of its best rushing efforts of the season.
Running back Donald Brown carried the ball six straight times to start the drive, highlighted by a 19-yard scamper up the middle of the Tennssee defense on the second play of the drive.
A winded Brown finally exited before a third-and-eight for the Colts from the Titans' 36-yard line.
The play would be the first pass attempt on the drive for Luck, but the significance did not go unnoticed by many who have witnessed the club predominantly be an air-heavy attack for years.
Wayne lined up to the left of Luck, on the inside of a three-receiver set. As the play developed Luck rolled slightly to his right and with a defender coming from his backside, the rookie fired a pass to number 87. Wayne extended his arms to his left and hauled in the 20-yard gain.
It was back to the ground for the offense.
Rookie running back Vick Ballard was stuffed for no gain on the next play.
Facing a second-and-10 from the Titans' 16-yard line, Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians looked down at his play sheet and chose "fake-toss-39-taxi-naked-right-screen-left."
The play had been installed earlier in the week and Arians found it successful every time the team ran it during practice.
After a fake toss to Ballard, Luck rolled to his right. Offensive linemen Anthony Castonzo and Jeff Linkenbach got out in front of the rookie running back and waited for Luck to throw the ball back across the field to Ballard.
"We've been practicing that play all week and wasn't quite sure how it was going to work, or if it was going to be called," Linkenbach said. "I ran out there and Vick gave us the 'go call' when the ball was on its way."
Ballard took the screen pass and turned upfield to find his blockers, and, hopefully, the end zone for the first time in his NFL career.
"After the throw, I saw I think the D-end in my peripheral (vision) so I knew once I caught the ball, I had to hurry up and get away from him," Ballard said. "Once I got away from him, I saw that I had two blockers ahead and I don't even remember how it was set up. I just knew I couldn't go inside and my only escape was from the outside. I had to jump to get there, so I did."
Castonzo provided a drive block for Ballard but it was the running back's determination from just inside the five-yard line that highlighted the play.
At one point, Ballard's back was parallel to the turf as his helmet hit the pylon to result in the game-winning score.
Arians and his staff took a look at the game film on Monday, and they still were in awe by the athleticism of Ballard.
"It was amazing. Every time I watch it, I get chills again," Arians said of Ballard's leap. "To have the presence to do the Fosbury Flop (famous track star Dick Fosbury's 1968 move) and turn the ball away, hide the ball and protect it and still get as high as he got and still get to the pylon was incredible. It was a great effort."
Across the field from Ballard's effort, Luck's view was a bit blocked and was the quarterback's emotions quickly changed once he saw the ball sail past the hands of Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley.
"I'm very happy that (Wimbley) didn't see the ball sooner and stick his hands out," Luck said. "I think (Anthony) Castonzo did a great job blocking downfield, driving his man. Again, an incredible effort by Vick (Ballard). I know that's the best finish, leap into the end zone, I've ever seen. I'm sure it'll be hard-pressed to be beat by anything else."
In the box score it will go down as a pass from Luck, but he knew that his fellow running back deserved the credit for getting into the end zone.
All afternoon, the Colts offense piled up yardage on the ground and the play that every Colts fan will remember was set up by the Indianapolis rushing attack.
Castonzo enjoyed reliving the play on Monday afternoon when talking about the rushing effort the offensive line and running backs provided on Sunday.
He also does not mind blocking for an interim head coach who is not afraid to dial up a little trickery.
"I love it," Castonzo said of Arians' gutsy nature. "I can't speak for my teammates but the fact that he made that real gutsy call at the end of overtime, that's awesome that he has enough faith in us to gamble with a play call like that."