Heading into Sunday's game at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts had a lot on their minds and, I thought, very little chance of knocking off the Green Bay Packers. Indy was still reeling from the news that first-year head coach Chuck Pagano would be out indefinitely as he battles leukemia, and the Packers' offense figured to present a particularly stiff challenge for a transitioning defense. Through the first half, the two teams played to expectations, with the Pack taking a 21-3 lead into the locker room. That was before Andrew Luck discovered some magic dust in the bowels of LOS, though, and the rookie quarterback methodically chipped away at the Packer lead in the second half until the Colts could actually start dreaming about pulling off the victory. The last-drive heroics that ensued and led to a 30-27 victory are the kind of stuff that can define a season and win over a fan base for good.
After watching Adam Vinatieri pull the Colts to within 21-19 at the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers showed why he is a superstar with a drive that culminated in a touchdown (and failed two-point conversion) with 4:30 left on the clock. Unfortunately for the Pack, that was about 35 seconds too many to contain the young Luck, who took over at his own 20 yard line after the ensuing kickoff. Over the next four minutes or so, Number 12 led the Colts on a 12-play, 76-yard romp that featured three third-down conversions and ate enough time to set up a do-or-die ending for all involved. With 35 seconds left, Luck found Reggie Wayne in the end zone before Donald Brown capped off the comeback with a successful run for the two-point conversion. Rodgers did manage to get the Packers in position for a desperate 51-yard field goal attempt that could have sent the game to overtime, but Mason Crosby sailed it wide left.
With this victory, the Colts evened their record at 2-2 and made good on all of the talk this week about playing with their noses to the ground despite Pagano's health situation. I honestly didn't have too much hope for the team's 2012 fortunes back in August, consigning myself to the fact that it's a learning year for Luck, the defense, Pagano and pretty much everyone else involved with the Colts. Now I'm not so sure that the Horseshoes won't put together a really interesting campaign, and I can hardly wait to see what Luck and company roll out next. With performances that included 84 yards rushing by Donald Brown, a career-high 362 yards passing by Andrew Luck and (get this) a career-high 212 receiving yards by Reggie Wayne, the Colts showed today that we might well have set our sights a little low for 2012.
For one day, at least, football was magical again in Indianapolis.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.