DETROIT – The magical season of Chuckstrong, Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne continued Sunday with the latest improbable outcome. The Indianapolis Colts pulled out a 35-33 win against the Detroit Lions on the final play of the game as wide receiver Donnie Avery leapt over the goal line for a 14-yard touchdown to win a contest that the Colts hadn't led since briefly in the first quarter.
Calvin Johnson (13 catches, 171 yards, one TD) to the cast they had on the field at the end, when the Colts were literally down to their last offensive lineman because two regulars got injured.The Colts, who are 7-1 in games decided by less than a touchdown, had no business leading this game. They were outplayed in many ways, from Luck's three interceptions (which could have been five) to their inability to stop
Interim coach Bruce Arians said the Colts were lining up guys whose names they were just learning as the game was going on. Heck, even Arians took a beating when he was knocked flat after one of Luck's interceptions.
"I gave the guy my best shot," Arians said.
Arians helped Pittsburgh win two Super Bowls and go to another. He put this season, in which the Colts lost head coach Chuck Pagano after three games to leukemia treatments, in larger context when asked if this is one of the best of his career.
"It's getting pretty good," Arians said. "It's climbing the list. I can't say enough about this situation because there is no script. They don't write a book about how to handle this situation. Our guys continued to fight and show the fight that our coach has."
And the fight their quarterback also has. This game should have ended up being a highlight on what not to do as Luck either threw into tight coverage or put too much air on throws when facing pressure.
Instead, Luck kept the Colts close enough when he hit fellow rookie LaVon Brazill for a 42-yard score (Brazill's first career TD) with 2:39 left. Momentum had turned. Before the touchdown, the Lions helped the Colts with a 15-yard horse collar penalty on lineman Nick Fairley.
That, of course, is the Lions way this season. Detroit has committed one mistake after another, such as coach Jim Schwartz's illegal challenge on Thanksgiving that turned a bad call into an 81-yard touchdown in a loss to Houston. This game, the Lions' fourth-straight defeat, was no different.
After Fairley's penalty helped put the Colts in range to score quickly, Detroit got the ball at midfield before punting. Surrendering the ball wasn't Detroit's biggest problem until punter Nick Harris shanked a 25-yard kick out of bounds. Once again, the Lions preserved time for the Colts.
Down 33-28 with 1:07 remaining, Luck needed just 49 seconds to go 61 yards. With 18 seconds left, he threw incomplete on the first three downs, including a second-down throw that was nearly caught by Wayne in the back of the end zone. Arians screamed about that call, but Luck didn't care.
"I didn't really see what happened," Luck said. That's because the Lions' pass rush, led by Ndamukong Suh, was constantly pressuring him. Luck solved that problem on the final two plays by stepping up in the pocket.
The second of those plays turned out to be a charm.
With the Lions dropping into a zone to take away the end zone and the Colts flooding the end zone with four receivers, Avery was left to run an underneath route. Avery was the last option, the last hope.
"Yep, the No. 5 guy," Arians said.
When Luck stepped up, nearly crossing the line of scrimmage, he tossed it short to Avery, who took it the final 10 yards for the win. The latest stunning, almost unexplainable win in a stunning, almost unexplainable season.
"It's just about being young and not knowing any better," Wayne said with a sly grin.
Right now, it's hard to argue with that.
Here are the other winners and losers of Week 13:
• Nice work by Houston to go for it on fourth-and-1 from Tennessee's 11 in the first half. Most coaches would've been conservative, but the Texans' Gary Kubiak took a chance. The conversion set up Houston's second touchdown on the way to a commanding lead by halftime. Houston dominated Sunday after going to overtime in its previous two games.
• With 210 yards rushing and one touchdown on 21 carries against Green Bay on Sunday, Adrian Peterson continued his stunning six-game run. In that stretch, he has 947 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 121 carries. That's an average of 7.8 yards per carry. It's a shame if voters don't at least split the Comeback Player of the Year award between Peterson and Peyton Manning. Peterson's return from knee surgery is amazing. He has 1,446 yards rushing so far, the second best total of his career. With four games left, he has a decent shot at 2,000.
[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Colts LB Vick Ballard on Indy's comeback]
• Congratulations to Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson for tying the NFL record for most consecutive games with 125 yards receiving (five). That's no small feat. The last person to do it was former Lion Pat Studstill – in 1966. As Johnson showed on Sunday against the Colts, he is almost impossible to stop one-on-one and zones aren't much of a challenge. Johnson made a terrific one-handed reception for 32 yards down the right sideline to set up Detroit's second touchdown.
• Coby Fleener scored the first touchdown of his career, which probably took longer than expected for the rookie tight end who was a college teammate of Andrew Luck. It came on a prototypical Fleener route as he got behind Detroit's defense for a 26-yard score, the longest reception of his season and typical of what he did at Stanford. While Fleener has been nagged by injuries this season, he and fellow rookie Dwayne Allen still are well on their way to forming a dynamic tight end combination.
• Staying with the Colts, there was another first for them, although this took 10 years. Veteran defensive end/linebacker Robert Mathis nabbed the first interception of his career. That stopped the Lions after they had gotten to midfield and prevented them from stretching their lead before halftime.
• Nice work by Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill on his touchdown run just before halftime. He should enjoy that while he still can do it. He'll save that play for a video scrapbook, maybe show it off to his future kids, saying, "Yeah, this is what Daddy used to do when he could still move."
• St. Louis cornerback Janoris Jenkins continued his stunning run of games since being sidelined for violating team rules. Jenkins scored his third touchdown in the past two games, this one on a 2-yard touchdown return of a fumble against the 49ers. He also blocked a field goal in that three-game span.
• Is Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt trying to get fired? Did he really leave rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley in the entire game as he went 10-of-31 for 72 yards, with two sacks and an interception? Did he really settle for a 35-yard field goal when 10 of his team's previous drives had gone for less than 10 yards? Whiz is a better coach than this. Way better. Let's hope he doesn't flame out like Denny Green. Arizona can do that to people, but come on.
• Speaking of the Arizona-New York Jets game, the Jets finally have the quarterback controversy that so many people predicted in training camp. The irony is that it came in the game when Tim Tebow was inactive. After 10 drives produced zero points (two missed field goals and three interceptions), Mark Sanchez was pulled in favor of third-string quarterback Greg McElroy, a seventh-round draft pick in 2011. McElroy, playing in his first regular-season action of his career, led the Jets on their longest drive of the day (69 yards) and finished it with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland. If you have been paying attention to Jets beat writers this season, they have been writing all along that McElroy was the best challenge to Sanchez, who continues to muddle through his career.
• It's easy to say that St. Louis cornerback Cortland Finnegan is a gigantic pain in the rear (heck, he loves it when people say it). With that in mind, it's hard to put him in the loser category. Rather, receivers who fall for his irritating habits are the guys at fault. On Sunday, 49ers wideouts Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham were the latest to fall prey to Finnegan's edginess. Instead of focusing on the game, each of them got caught up in trying to show up Finnegan.
• Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker continues to be erratic, at best, since his return from a shoulder injury. Locker completed 21 of 45 passes for 309 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions on Sunday against Houston. In his past three games, Locker is 53 of 106 (50 percent) for 692 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. The interceptions are bad, but the completion percentage is what many critics were concerned about when Locker entered the 2011 draft. At a time when the average NFL quarterback is at roughly 65 percent, Locker is 56.6 in his second season.
• On the subject of inaccurate passing, Jacksonville's Chad Henne and Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick battled bad weather on the way to an ugly day. Henne was 18 of 41 and Fitzpatrick was 9 of 17. That's 27 of 58 overall for a pair of teams that could be in the quarterback market this offseason.
• Bad day for San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had an intentional grounding call for a safety and a botched pitch that led to cornerback Janoris Jenkins' aforementioned touchdown. That helped St. Louis to 10 of its 13 points in regulation on the way to a 16-13 overtime win. Kaepernick's overall stats were solid and he showed big-play potential with his arm and legs (84 yards rushing, including a 50-yard scamper). The real problem for the 49ers was the rest of the running game provided only 64 yards on 27 carries.
• Chicago's ugly run from 7-1 at midseason to 8-4 continued Sunday. The three losses over the past four games are all against playoff contenders (Houston, San Francisco and Seattle). The only win the Bears have against a team with a winning record happened in the season opener against Indianapolis. Barring serious improvement, the Bears look headed for one-and-done in the playoffs.
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