INDIANAPOLIS –Prior to Sunday, the Colts were going through a season that defied logic to those beyond the locker room.
Today in winning 35-33 at Detroit, the script may have been a bit more than even a believing squad would have figured. Then again, the team was just working its process.
Indianapolis scored the game's final 14 points in the last 2:39, driving 85 and 75 yards to record the win.
Quarterback Andrew Luck completed the game with a 14-yard scoring toss to wide receiver Donnie Avery at the gun. Avery caught Luck's short pass and scooted the final nine yards as the Colts posted their fifth win this season in the fourth quarter or overtime. The last drive was conducted without the Colts having any timeouts.
"I don't think anything could be bigger for our confidence than to come in here, beat this team like this in this environment to get us ready for the playoffs," said Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians to Colts Radio.
This marked the first time since September 30, 1990 the Colts won a game with a touchdown on the final play of regulation. That day in Philadelphia, Jack Trudeau found Bill Brooks on a six-yard pass at the gun for a 24-23 victory.
The win over the Lions put the Colts at 8-4, remaining firmly in place in the AFC playoff hunt with four games to go.
Arians went to 7-2 in subbing for Chuck Pagano, the team's beloved head coach who is fighting leukemia.
The Colts entered the game with a 2-3 road record, with two division wins and three decisive setbacks. Indianapolis looked to have a consistently higher level of play away from home.
After taking a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, Detroit grabbed it back less than five minutes later and held it until the final tick of the clock. The Colts were behind 23-14 at the half and after a series of three-and-outs and three turnovers on offense, the club trailed 33-21 with 8:41 to go.
The defense did a great job of limiting Detroit to three points off the turnovers. The club forced Detroit into three three-and-outs, and linebacker Robert Mathis intercepted his first career pass.
Detroit kick Jason Hanson booted four field goals, and the Colts' ability to overcome three points repeatedly with five touchdowns was the difference.
"We took a step back in some areas, not to discredit the Detroit defense," said Allen. "They did a heck of a job of getting us off the field, getting some three-and-outs and disrupting our rhythm. When it came down to it, we executed."
Arians has steered the club in a gifted way, and he is working the foundation laid during the spring and summer by Pagano and the coaching staff.
A common mantra this year has been, "work the process." It is a refrain heard over and over in the locker room because it is one that has been adopted roster-wide.
Indianapolis has five victories this season in the fourth quarter or overtime – 23-20 over Minnesota, 30-27 over Green Bay, 19-13 in overtime at Tennessee, 23-20 over Miami and today at Detroit.
The team is 7-1 in games decided by one score.
"Coach Arians told us before the game, 'If you make it close, if we keep it close, it will be a dogfight. We'll have a chance to win it at the end, and we're going to win it.' Those were his exact words," said Allen. "That's exactly what happened."