NASHVILLE — The "WWJD" page in the Indianapolis Colts' playbook seems to be working quite well.
Despite being without several key playmakers on offense in Sunday's AFC South Division showdown against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Colts would end up having just what they needed, thanks in large part to a huge performance from tight end Jack Doyle.
With No. 1 tight end Dwayne Allen out with an ankle injury, Doyle continued his career season, catching nine passes for 78 yards, including the eventual game-winning touchdown catch in the Colts' 34-26 victory over the Titans.
It was yet another crazy ending for Indianapolis, but flying home with the divisional win — a week after such a deflating loss to the Houston Texans where first place in the AFC South was well within grasp — makes it all worth it.
"Whenever you go on the road and take a division game, you know it's going to be hard, you know it's going to take all four quarters," Doyle said. "We were able to get it done."
Doyle on Sunday was targeted 10 times, just two fewer than No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, and many of his grabs came at critical junctions of various drives.
In fact, three of his last four catches resulted in Colts' first downs; his last catch resulted in a touchdown.
Doyle was no more valuable than he was on the Colts' final offensive drive of the game. Trailing three points, 23-20 with 6:02 left in the fourth quarter, Indianapolis began with a 1st and 10 at its own 30-yard line. Quarterback Andrew Luck's first pass went right to his dependable target, Doyle, to the Tennessee 46-yard line for 24 yards.
But after getting all the way to the Tennessee 2-yard line, the Colts committed a false start on 3rd and Goal, moving back to the 7. Odds were a game-tying field goal would end up being Indianapolis' best effort on this late drive.
But Luck and Doyle had other plans. On 3rd and Goal from the 7, Luck, lined up alone in the shotgun, took the snap, had a quick five-step drop, and launched a pass down the seam to the middle of the end zone, right to the waiting hands of Doyle. From there, the tight end — who began his career with the Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2013 — secured the pass and quickly went to the ground with the go-ahead score.
Doyle passed the praise on the play to Hilton, who lined up next to him at the start of the play and got the attention of three defenders in the corner of the end zone, allowing the tight end to break free.
"Just another case of T.Y. taking up a bunch of defenders, and I was able to find a little hole there in the middle of the field, and Andrew found me," Doyle said.
Sounds simple enough, but Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Doyle's contributions have been anything but simple. He now has a career-best 29 receptions for 282 yards and four touchdowns on the season — in a contract year, no less.
"The guy's phenomenal," Pagano told Bob Lamey after the game. "You know Jack, I know Jack, every one of those teammates knows Jack. There's not a more respected man on this football team and in our locker room than Jack Doyle, and it's because of his work ethic, his professionalism.
"He comes to work every single day, and he gives every thing that he has from a preparation standpoint, in the meeting room, on the practice field. And what he does out on the field on Sundays is a byproduct of that. And what a great, great man and a great, great player, and what a great day that he had in helping us get this win."
Perhaps not surprisingly, Doyle's focus after the game was less on his performance and more on the work done by his teammates.
With Allen out, the Colts are relying not just on Doyle, but No. 3 tight end Mo Alie-Cox — in his first-ever full NFL season — to also step up and make plays. Swoope also answered the call on Sunday against the Titans, catching two passes for 51 yards.
"I have fun playing football, you know? And it was fun to be out here," Doyle said. "And I was so proud of Erik. He's come such a long way — I'm so proud of him the way he played, too. It was a lot of fun."