No postseason rarity for Vinatieri, Mathis
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 3, 2016) – It might have taken reality a bit longer to set in with Adam Vinatieri and Robert Mathis.
The end of the regular season rarely has been the end of their season.
Yet as the Indianapolis Colts closed their season with a 30-24 win over the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, it was over.
Vinatieri missed the postseason for just the sixth time in 20 years.
Mathis experienced the sudden end for only the second time in 13 seasons.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in, yet,’’ Vinatieri said. “Guys are happy that we won and fought hard, but (Monday) you get your exit physical and you’re clearing out your locker and guys are saying their ‘Good-byes’.
“The older I get, the more sentimental I get about it. You realize what that finality means. I’ve got to turn off the alarm on my phone. It says get up at 6:30 or 6:40 every morning so I can get to work.’’
Added Mathis: “Being around here for 13 years and only the second time not making the postseason . . . You can’t sneeze at that. I take pride in that.
“But it shows we’ve got a higher level of competition. We didn’t meet that, so there’s work to do.’’
Win for Freeman: Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley obviously are quick studies. Despite being with the Colts for less than a week, they combined to lead the season-closing victory by completing 21-of-38 passes for 207 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Freeman started and played the most while Lindley’s role was to run the 2-minute offense. The win went to Freeman (25-36 for his career) and was his first since Dec. 30, 2012 when he led Tampa Bay to a 22-17 win over Atlanta.
“It was a great experience,’’ he said after passing for 149 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown to tight end Coby Fleener. “Definitely a whirlwind all around, but ultimately it came out (okay) and a lot of guys did a lot of things right today.
“My goal was to go out and plaly well enough to win.’’
Lindley’s backup duties saw him pass for 58 yards, including an 18-yard TD to Andre Johnson.
No one should be surprised if the Colts invite either Freeman or Lindley back when their offseason conditioning program opens in April.
Statistically-speaking: Vinatieri ended the season by converting 25 consecutive field goals after an 0-of-2 start. He also reached the 100-point plateau (107 points) for an 18th season, extending his NFL record.
In a quirk, Vinatieri missed more PATS (three) this season than field-goal attempts (25-of-27). Over the past two seasons, the NFL’s oldest player – Vinatieri is 43 – has converted a league-best 55-of-58 attempts (.948).
Linebacker Jerrell Freeman will be an unrestricted free agent and authored what might have been a solid final game with the Colts. He returned a Zach Mettenberger interception 23 yards for a touchdown, had two sacks and a team-high eight tackles.
Another quirk of note. If coach Chuck Pagano doesn’t return, Freeman produced the first touchdown of the Pagano era – a 4-yard pick-6 against the Chicago Bears in the 2012 opener – and the final TD – Sunday’s pick-6.
The fourth pick-6 tied a franchise record. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and safeties Mike Adams and Dwight Lowery also returned interceptions for touchdowns this season.
Running back Frank Gore led the Colts with 76 yards on 19 carries, but fell 33 yards shy of his ninth career 1,000-yard season. The Colts will go into 2016 with a pair of NFL-long active streaks intact – 50 regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher and eight seasons without a 1,000-yard rusher.