Allow me to begin this column by saying that I have never given up on the Colts during a game. Not when they trailed the Patriots 21-3 in the 2006 AFC Championship. Not when they fell behind 21-3 and almost came back against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2005 AFC Divisional Round. Not when they were behind 34-21 against the Pats with 4:12 remaining in the Week 10 of the 2009 regular season. Never. Not once.
So, on Saturday evening, when the Colts faced a 31-10 halftime deficit, I kept my faith alive, attempting to convince myself that a second half comeback was on its way.
And then, before I could even blink, Andrew Luck threw an interception on the opening play of scrimmage in the third quarter–an interception that the Chiefs quickly turned into seven more points, making the score 38-10 in their favor.
A 28-point deficit, with the way the Colts were playing? Forget it. For the first time in my life, I gave up.
I did, however, make sure to at least keep the game on my television until the Chiefs further extended their lead, and on the ensuing Colts’ position, Luck hit Da’Rick Rogers on a 46-yard pass to set up a Donald Brown touchdown. Suddenly, there was hope–I didn’t want to let myself believe that Indianapolis could actually come all the way back, but I kept watching.
And, because I was still watching, I devised a plan: I was going to stay in the exact position that I was in when the touchdown was scored–sitting upright in my bed, against the wall–for the remainder of the game, mostly because I’m so superstitious that I believe I can have an affect on Colts’ games.
Anyway, the Chiefs got the ball back, and the Colts were able to force the turnover that they desperately needed–a Robert Mathis strip-sack, with the fumble recovered by Kelvin Sheppard.
Finally, the good guys were starting to catch some breaks!
With starting field position at the Kansas City 41-yard line, Luck drove his offense the remainder of the field, ending the drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Donald Brown.
The Colts had suddenly reduced the Chiefs’ lead to just 14 points, but I was doing my very best to not allow myself to get too caught up in the comeback:
Don’t do this to me, Andrew Luck. Please, don’t set me up for disappointment by making me believe that you are really going to bring your team back from a 28-point deficit.
To my delight, the Colt defense forced a punt on the next Kansas City possession, and out came Luck.
At this point, my superstitions were growing larger and larger: I wouldn’t budge from sitting upright on my bed. I carefully chose when to take a sip of water, and when not to. I didn’t answer a single text from my friends. And, with the rest of my family watching the game downstairs, I refused to interact with anyone else in the house.
But, just moments after the Colts forced the punt, my sister walked into my bedroom and asked if I thought they were going to win. Call me a terrible brother, but I was infuriated, and I quickly made her leave my room.
It was harsh, I know, but what happened on the VERY NEXT PLAY? Andrew Luck, the same Andrew Luck who had put together back-to-back perfect drives, threw his THIRD INTERCEPTION.
Luckily, she left and the Chiefs only managed a field goal. When the Colts’ offense got a chance to redeem themselves after the turnover, they again drove down the field and scored–this time on a 12-yard bullet from Luck to Coby Fleener, trimming the lead to 41-31.
Against what I believed to me my better judgment, I was starting to get the sense that maybe–just maybe–the Colts had a real chance.
The Chiefs were forced into a punt on their next series, and Luck proceeded to march his troops 90 yards on 12 plays in just over four minutes, capping the drive with the play of the year–after Donald Brown fumbled just two yards shy of the end zone, the second-year quarterback was able to scoop up the ball and leap into the end zone.
41-38. 10:38 remaining in the final quarter.
I was now in full-fledged believe mode. While all of this was happening, I was STILL sticking to my crazy superstitions. I was sitting upright on my bed, I would only take a sip from the glass of water during the first commercial of every TV break, and I continued to ignore the texts I was receiving from my friends. I know, I’m crazy, but it WAS working.
From here, you know what happened: the Colts would get the ball with 5:36 remaining in the game, down 44-38, and Luck fired a 64-yard laser to T.Y. Hilton for the go-ahead touchdown.
I was amazed at what the Colts–my beloved Colts–had done, but with 4:21 left on the clock, I knew full well that the game was far from over.
Alex Smith still had more than enough time to drive the ball down the field to set up the game-winning field goal, and–right on cue– he began to shred the Indianapolis defense. Smith completed two passes to Dwayne Bowe for 38 yards to start the final drive, and a Cyrus Gray three-yard run had the Chiefs at the Colts’ 32-yard line. But on the following second-and-7, Smith was penalized for intentional grounding, setting up a third-and-17 from the Colts’ 49. Two plays later, on fourth-and-11, he found Bowe along the right sideline, but the seventh-year wide receiver was unable to get his feet in bounds, resulting in a turnover on downs.
That was it. Game over. Colts win! Colts win! My superstitions helped them pull off the second-biggest comeback in NFL Playoff history! (Or at least I was crazy enough to think so.)
I couldn’t believe what had transpired in the second half–I really couldn’t. And, to be honest, I still can’t.
Outside of the 2006-07 AFC Championship Game, that was the most exciting, most improbable Colts’ win that I have been a witness to. They have dug themselves into holes time and time again this season, but I never would have thought they were resilient enough to do THAT. Seriously, they were down 28 points in the third quarter and WON? Incredible.
And what made the comeback even more memorable was that, as a fan, I wanted this win about as badly as someone can want a Wild Card Round win. The Colts have had a great year to this point–they won the AFC South for the first time since 2010, and they had monumental wins over the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos in the regular season. But all of that goes out of the window if they don’t pull off what they pulled off on Saturday–the Colts needed to get out of the first round for the first time since 2009 for this season to be considered a success.
It was also, in my opinion, a very critical win for one Andrew Luck in his young career. If Luck were to have lost for a second straight year in the Wild Card Round, especially after throwing multiple interceptions, he would have almost certainly heard critics begin to claim that “he can’t win the big one”. I’m not saying it would have been right or wrong to make such an accusation, it’s just fact: Luck’s inability to get past the first round would have become the narrative had the Colts lost yesterday.
I don’t know how the Colts will fare next week–maybe they’ll win in Foxboro, maybe they’ll lose. I’m one of the few that gives them a real shot at winning it all, but if they fail to advance past the Divisional Round, I won’t be dejected. I’ll be disappointed, surely, but I’ll also be the first to acknowledge that the Colts met what I considered to be realistic expectations before the season began: to win the division and to win a playoff game.
No matter what, here’s what I know for certain: For the rest of my life, nobody will ever be able to take away the Colts’ 45-44 win on Saturday, or the feelings that I was able to enjoy throughout the experience. I will cherish the memory forever.