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With historic game, Colts' Matt Gay proves: That's why you sign a kicker

The Colts signed Gay as a free agent in March for moments like the one he delivered Sunday: A game-winning overtime field goal against the Baltimore Ravens, which was his record-setting fourth 50+ yard field goal of the game. 

BALTIMORE – Matt Gay jogged on the field, lined up his kick and made it.

That could've described any of the five field goals Gay made in the Colts' 22-19 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

And that's the point.

From his first kick – a 31-yard chip shot – to his game-ending 53-yarder, Gay kept the same approach, the same mindset. He calls it his "blackout" mode. His teammates see it as just who he is.

And the only thing different about Gay's overtime game-winner was what happened after. Gay didn't cooly jog back to the sideline. He was mobbed by his teammates, the ones who gritted through 84 snaps on offense and 72 snaps on defense, as the Colts moved to 2-1 in Shane Steichen's inaugural season as head coach.

"Matt's so cool, calm and collected, it was just the same operation," long snapper Luke Rhodes said. "Coach signaled field goal, we just walked out and kicked it."

The Colts signed Gay for moments like the ones he delivered Sunday on a soggy field in Baltimore. A Gardner Minshew-led offense threw everything it could at a fast, physical defense, mustering one touchdown drive but several others that stretched into Ravens territory. Gay ended all of those possessions with field goals, first from 54 yards. Then from 53 yards. Then, with the Colts down by three with a minute left, from 53 yards.

And then again from 53 yards to end the game.

"That boy was nailing them," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "People underestimate the power of the kicking game. I think Matt proved everybody his worth today for sure."

The Colts turned heads back in March when they signed Gay as a free agent. The team saw him as a steadying presence at a position that was pieced together since the end of future Hall of Fame Adam Vinatieri's career. But they also viewed Gay as a legitimate weapon, the kind of guy who could deliver big kicks in big games, no matter how much pressure he'd be under.

Given what it took the Colts on Sunday to get to setting Gay up for the game-winner, it's hard to imagine a more pressure-packed kick in the month of September. This was a tough, old-school, physical football game – one that was always going to hang on a razor-thin margin.

And Gay made sure the Colts were on the right side of it.

"The kicker position is a little bit, when it comes down to that moment, everyone's looking just at you," Gay said. "So being able to come through it for them, for Shane, for this organization, that's special I'll hold on to forever because those moments don't come along very often."

Gay set an NFL record when his game-winner went through the uprights – he became the first player in league history to connect on four field goals of 50 or more yards in a single game.

This is who Gay has proved himself to be, though. He's now made seven consecutive kicks of 50 or more yards. With the Los Angeles Rams, he kicked in a Super Bowl; he's made 12 of 14 field goals and all 15 of his PATs in the playoffs. He's only missed four field goals in the fourth quarter in his five-year career, consistently making sure his team exits late-game drives with points thanks to his "blackout" mentality.

"Just in that blackout mode, you jog on, kick it and jog off," Gay said. "That's the mindset I like to have. I don't like to think too much about what's going on or think too much about anything — thoughts can come in and get you off as opposed to being in the moment or being, like that term, unconscious."

The Colts already trusted Gay, but there's now a different level of confidence with this team in its kicker. They've seen him do it. And in close games, it gives a boost to an offense that knows any drive crossing the opponent's 40-yard line is probably going to result in a minimum three points.

So when the Colts' defense forced a turnover on downs on their own 47-yard line with three and a half minutes left in overtime, running back Zack Moss knew he needed probably 15 or so yards to set Gay – his college teammate at Utah – up for the game-winner.

Moss ripped off a 13-yard run to start the drive, then added another five to get the Colts to the Ravens' 35-yard line. Gay did the rest.

"I wasn't worried about it at all," Moss said. "I just wanted to make sure we were able to put him in a position to go ahead and close that thing out."

This is why you sign a kicker: To deliver a win in the sort of culture-building game that can have a lasting impact on the 2023 season. The Colts needed every player on the field to do their part Sunday, and every player did their part.

Especially the kicker.

"I mean, he just saved the day," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said. "Superhero cape, and he just did it all today."

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