It’s all Luck as Colts rally past Dolphins

The Sports Xchange

November 25, 2018 at 8:38 pm.

Nov 25, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Photo Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 25, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Photo Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck sure appeared to be going down. So did his Indianapolis Colts for the better part of an ugly Sunday mired by too many mistakes.

On third-and-9 at the Colts’ 43 with two minutes remaining, Luck seemed on the verge of being swallowed up by the Dolphins pass rush. He ducked and stumbled forward in the pocket.

He regained his footing while zigging left and zagging right. The football was initially tucked in his left hand, as if he were going to scramble, but in a stunning instant Luck switched it to his right hand, spotted reserve wide receiver Chester Rogers in the distance and fired a strike for a 34-yard escape.

One clutch, improbable play of atonement not only saved the Colts but also allowed Adam Vinatieri to make up for an earlier miss and kick a 32-yard, game-ending field goal for a 27-24 triumph at Lucas Oil Stadium.

After enduring two interceptions, a fumble, a blocked punt and a dropped interception that should have been a touchdown, the Colts rallied from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

“I was far from the first option,” said Rogers, a reserve with just two catches for nine yards in three previous games.

Asked how many NFL quarterbacks could make such a play with the game on the line, Rogers said, “Very few. Very few, probably three or four in the league. But Andrew, he’s special.”

Colts first-year coach Frank Reich called the play “incredible” and admitted he didn’t expect to gain that many yards down the field, especially off a broken play.

“But, boy did we need that,” Reich said.

He’s come to expect the unexpected from the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week, who has thrown at least three TD passes in eight consecutive games to tie Peyton Manning for the second-longest streak in NFL history.

“That’s why he is who he is,” Reich said of Luck, who completed 30 of 37 passes for 343 yards and three TDs with two interceptions.

That’s also why the Colts (6-5), after Vinatieri’s 28th career game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime, won their fifth consecutive game. It’s the first time that’s happened since 2014.

After a 1-5 start, the Colts are tied with Baltimore for the AFC’s final playoff spot (although the Ravens hold the tiebreaker). Granted, it’s a bit early to be thinking too much about the Colts making the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

After a 3-0 start, the Dolphins (5-6) continued to decline although they scored first and had the upper hand for much of this game.

“Can’t get it back,” said Dolphins defensive tackle Akeem Spence, who almost had Luck on the third-down play. “Luck made a great move stepping up in the pocket. He’s a big guy, hard to bring down with one hand. That’s the play I got to make.”

Defensive end Cameron Wake also almost got to Luck on that play.

“They made a play, we didn’t,” Wake said. “Probably one of the bigger plays of the game.”

A sequence of events leading up to Luck’s fateful pass doomed the Dolphins, who took a 24-14 lead on Kenyan Drake’s 14-yard TD run with 13:36 remaining.

“It could’ve easily been in our hands to be in the situation to win the game,” said Dolphins wide receiver Leonte Carroo, whose 74-yard TD reception tied the game at 14 in the second quarter.

After the Drake score, the Colts made it a one-score game on a Vinatieri 46-yard field goal. The defense got a stop, then Luck drove Indianapolis to a tying score as he hit Eric Ebron from 12 yards out for the tight end’s second touchdown of the day. Ebron’s 11 TD receptions are tied for the league lead with Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill.

As a celebration ensued, many didn’t notice a penalty flag thrown in the end zone. Ebron took a late shot from Dolphins safety Xavien Howard, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The 15-yard penalty was enforced on the kickoff, which came from midfield. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez lofted a high, short kick to the goal line that the Dolphins returned 16 yards but were sent back to the 6 because of a holding penalty.

“The kick by ‘Rigo’ basically wins us the game,” Reich said. “You can’t kick it or place that thing any better. We get the penalty and back them up. That was huge.”

So, too, did the final kick by Vinatieri, who first lamented missing badly on a 48-yard attempt with his team trailing 17-14 in the third quarter.

“I think I hit behind the ball about six or eight inches, which is not overly characteristic of most of the time,” Vinatieri said. “But I’ll go back and check it out. That was about as ugly a kick as I’ve ever kicked in my life.”

Vinatieri, the NFL’s all-time leader in field goals (576), points (2,570) and regular-season wins (211), returned to the sideline to collect himself for the next chance. His Colts were also in need of a reboot, so to speak, and didn’t kick it into gear until time was running out.

“I knew it would most likely come down to a kick,” Vinatieri said.

And those kinds of clutch, game-winning kicks never get old, even for the NFL’s oldest player at 45.
“No,” he said, “especially when you have one of your worst kicks in your lifetime before that, it’s good to get that monkey off your back a little bit.”