Garcon's Forced Fumble 'Epitomizes' Team's Effort, According to Caldwell
INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Caldwell called it a play that "epitomizes the type of effort our guys put forth."
Dwight Freeney said it was one of the greatest hustle plays he has ever seen.
But Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon was not as impressed with his effort as his teammates and coaches. Instead, the second-year player said he was just doing whatever it took to help the Colts win Saturday.
"I had to get my touchdown back," Garcon said. "I was kind of upset."
The play in reference was a forced fumble caused by Garcon midway through the third quarter.
Following a turnover on downs by Baltimore, the Colts had taken possession at their own 45 with a 17-3 lead and just over six minutes remaining in the quarter.
On 1st-and-10, Manning dropped back in the pocket and spotted Garcon deep along the right sideline, but his pass was intercepted by a darting Ed Reed, the Ravens' All-Pro safety, at Baltimore's 35 yard-line.
"We kind of had a missed assignment on the route," Manning said. "It allowed (Ed) Reed to free up and help out over the top on Garcon. We should have had someone in the middle to hold him."
Reed, who has returned six interceptions for touchdowns in his career, quickly took off the other way, dodging Colts offensive players-turned defenders and weaving his way toward the end zone.
But Garcon did not give up. The speedy receiver was tracking Reed and continuing to gain ground on the return specialist.
Reed ran with the ball 38 yards before Garcon caught up to him, and instead of tackling Reed, Garcon had the presence of mind to launch from behind and punch the football loose from Reed's grasp, causing a fumble.
The ball briefly bounced on the ground before Colts tight end Dallas Clark scooped it up, giving the Colts back the ball at their own 28 and saving what appeared to be great field position for the Ravens.
And after Garcon's hustle play, with the Colts looking to extend their two-possession lead, quarterback Peyton Manning orchestrated a scoring drive that lasted over seven minutes and resulted in three points and a 20-3 Colts lead.
But if it were not for Garcon's incredible effort on the first play of the drive, the second half of Saturday's Divisional Round could have played out much, much differently.
"Oftentimes, you'll find on a change of possession that guys might not run the ball down quite like that," Caldwell said. "He'll be dejected, kind of watch what happens and jog along.
"But our guys have an attitude that when things happen, a sudden change, they can flip the switch quickly. The effort that he put forth, I think, was indicative of the style of play we've had from our guys throughout the year."
Clark, who was one of the many Colts chasing Reed on the play, said his fellow receiver came up with a "huge play."
"Watching Pierre, he was just flying to catch Ed," Clark said. "To not just think of the tackle, but to try to get the ball back was outstanding. It was a tremendous effort on his part. But that's what we have been doing all year long, trying to out-hustle people and trying to create plays like that."
It was not the only play Garcon made against the Ravens. In addition to the forced fumble, Garcon also caught five passes for 34 yards.
The second-year receiver's work Saturday came with a heavy heart. Garcon continues to deal with the aftermath of last week's devastating earthquake that struck Haiti, an island country that his parents hail from and where a large majority of his relatives still live.
Garcon admitted it was hard at times to focus leading up to Saturday's game and said he is still trying to get in contact with some of his family members.
"He's one of those guys that doesn't get riled very often," Caldwell said. "He really has great, extraordinary focus. But obviously, the circumstances that he's dealing with are very, very difficult. For him to be able to come out and focus in on the ballgame and perform extremely well says a lot about him."
As did his game-changing play Saturday, which not only showed the receiver's courage, but showed his great resolve and determination.