INDIANAPOLIS – Playing 60 minutes of football is a mantra heard around virtually every NFL locker room on a weekly basis.
Saying it is one thing.
Executing it is completely different.
Approaching the 60-minute mark of another one-possession game, the Colts found themselves down 33-28, 14 yards away from the end zone with three seconds remaining.
Quarterback Andrew Luck lined up in the shotgun with an empty backfield as wide receiver Donnie Avery occupied the furthest left spot of the five receivers, with three receivers to Luck's right.
Luck took the snap and rolled to his right and as his targets in the end zone were covered, the quarterback dumped the pass off to the speedy Avery. The pass traveled a mere four yards but once Avery hauled it in just inside the 10-yard line, he turned it up the field for the game-winning score.
"Andrew just made a heck of a play to Donnie at the end," Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians said to Colts Radio. "We ran everybody left and Donnie across the field. He was kind of the last option. Andrew did a great job of extending the play and got us in the end zone."
Avery's touchdown catch came after the Colts had moved quickly down the field, but three incompletions preceded the cardiac moment.
It was just another speed bump in a game that saw the Colts fighting back from deficits for nearly the entire contest, and the players could not help but think of their head coach when glancing up at the scoreboard in the second half.
"Like Chuck Pagano says all the time, 'Stick with the process, stick with the process and once you stick with the process great things will happen for you.' Great things happened for us at the end," Avery said.
Arians and players once again credited all three phases for the victory as the defense forced a trio of punts to close out the game.
The comeback began with 4:02 remaining with the offense taking over at the Indianapolis 15-yard line.
Luck converted a fourth-and-two with an eight-yard scramble early in the drive before connecting with fellow rookie LaVon Brazill for a 42-yard touchdown with 2:39 remaining.
The score cut the lead to 33-28 and the defense headed back onto the field knowing what needed to be done.
After a pass interference penalty gave Detroit a first down with 2:29 left, the Colts defense allowed just five yards on the next three plays with the Lions punting the football away with 1:07 left.
The Colts offense had no intentions of giving it back and drove 75 yards in 11 plays with the heroics coming at the final gun.
"I think it was a total team effort. We put our defense in some bad spots, but they kept fighting and put us in great spots," Luck said.
"We just keep playing and good things are starting to happen. I'm just proud to be a part of a resilient team like the Indianapolis Colts."
Down a pair of offensive linemen and a quarterback who had a turnover-plagued afternoon, the Colts proved away from home that winning one-possession games is no fluke.
Now 7-1 in such games this season, the Colts did not mind at all using the entire 60 minutes to take another step forward in trying to play into January.
"I couldn't be prouder. Another great team win," Arians said. "There is no quit. We have as resilient a bunch of guys as I've ever been around. We were positive the whole time. Even when they were getting ready to punt, Andrew walked over and said, 'Let's go get it.' It gives you great confidence as a coach.
"I don't think anything could be bigger for our confidence to come in there and beat this team like this in this environment to get us ready for the playoffs."