Indianapolis Colts notebook: Colts avoid ‘Doomsday scenario’

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Andrew Luck

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What we saw during the Indianapolis Colts’ 26-22 win over the San Diego Chargers Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton collaborated on the game-winning 63-yard touchdown pass with 1:17 remaining.

No ‘Doomsday scenario’: Let’s not kid ourselves. The Colts saved their season by getting the late lightning bolt from Luck and Hilton and yet another stiff outing by their defense.

You don’t believe us when we mention the difference in 1-2 and 0-3?

Here’s Chuck Pagano: An 0-3 start? “Doomsday scenario. It isn’t, but it is. This team needed this.’’

And here’s Robert Mathis, after a long exhale: “0-3 we’d probably be on suicide watch for everybody. Winning feels great.’’

Finally, Luck: “It’s huge. You need that first one. You need to start stacking wins together. It’s hard to verbalize how important it is, but I’m sure you can tell by my demeanor up here. It means a lot.’’

History insisted the Colts’ season was on the line Sunday. Only five teams in NFL history had reached the playoffs following an 0-3 start, the last being the 1998 Buffalo Bills. Now, that’s a moot point.

And since we’re a glass-is-half-full guy, we’ll point out the 1-2 Colts are tied for second in the AFC South with Tennessee, one game behind 2-1 Houston.

Next stop: London’s Wembley Stadium and a Sunday meeting with the Jaguars.

Defense holds up this time: If it seemed as if the sellout crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium had seen this movie before, it’s because it had.

Luck’s 63-yard touchdown pass to Hilton gave the Colts a 26-22 lead, but 1:17 remained. The game was in the hands of the defense. It held the lead, snuffing out San Diego’s last-gasp drive when Clayton Geathers forced a fumble by tight end Hunter Henry and Mike Adams recovered with 1:02 remaining.

Two weeks ago, Luck’s 6-yard TD pass to Jack Doyle gave the Colts a 35-34 lead over the Detroit Lions with 37 seconds to play. The defense was unable to hold it, allowing Matt Prater’s 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds to play.

Redemption felt oh, so good.

“We just made those plays this time,’’ Mathis said. “The difference between winning and losing in this league is paper-thin. Detroit, we never made the plays. Today, we made them.’’

More defense: It’s hard to ask for more from Ted Monachino’s bunch. Last week at Denver, the defense allowed one touchdown and four field goals. Sunday, it held the Philip Rivers-led Chargers to one TD and three Josh Lambo field goals.

And major props for the defense’s work against San Diego running back Melvin Gordon. The 15th overall pick in the 2015 draft was limited to 35 yards on 16 carries with a long of 7.

Rivers, meanwhile, needed 39 attempts to pile up 330 yards. Erik Walden sacked Rivers twice.

Careless Luck: Things probably wouldn’t have come down to the closing minutes had it not been for a pair of forgettable Luck plays. His two second-quarter turnovers – an interception and a lost fumble – cost the Colts 10 points.

The interception came when Luck was targeting Chester Rogers and found cornerback Casey Haywood.

“Good play by the DB, bad ball by me,’’ Luck said.

Haywood’s return and a face-mask penalty on Rogers gave San Diego a first-and-goal at the 6. The defense held, forcing the Chargers to settle for Lambo’s 34-yard field goal.

In front 13-6 and driving to add to the lead in the closing minutes of the quarter, Luck lost a fumble while being sacked by Jatavis Brown and Adrian Phillips. Caraun Reid returned the fumble 61 yards for a touchdown.

“I’m embarrassed about that,’’ Luck said. “I should never fumble in that manner.’’

Luck completed 24-of-37 passes for 331 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Getting healthy: Cornerback Vontae Davis and defensive end Henry Anderson made their first appearance of the season. Davis was credited with three tackles. Anderson wasn’t credited with a tackle, but had a critical pressure against Rivers that forced an incompletion on a third-and-3 late in the fourth quarter.

Gore denied: OK, maybe Frank Gore won’t rush for 100-yards and the Colts’ drought will continue forever and ever.

Gore had 70 yards on 13 carries at the half. He finished with 82 yards on 21 carries.

So, on it goes. The streak is at 59 consecutive games, including the playoffs. Vick Ballard remains the last Colt to cross the 100-yard mark: 105 yards at Houston in game 14 of the 2012 season.

Injury update: The Colts lost right tackle Joe Reitz to a lingering back injury in the second half. That forced rookie Joe Haeg, who started his first NFL game at right guard, to slide to tackle. Jon Harrison replaced Haeg at right guard.

Safety Clayton Geathers and Davis briefly left the game, but returned.

The Chargers lost linebacker Manti Te’o in the first quarter with an Achilles injury.

This and that: Adam Vinatieri converted 38- and 33-yard field goals to extend his streak of consecutive made field goals to 31. . . . Linebacker Sio Moore led the Colts with eight tackles. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was credited with seven. . . . Hilton was the offensive star (eight catches, 174 yards, one TD), but tight end Jack Doyle added six catches for 65 yards and tight end Dwayne Allen had three catches for 35 yards. . . . Cornerback Antonio Cromartie was credited with a tip on Josh Lambo’s errant PAT – wide left – in the third quarter.

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