Backup quarterbacks aren't backups because they can't do what NFL starters can. They're backups because they don't do what starters do as consistently.
Indianapolis Colts backup now starting quarterback Gardner Minshew was inconsistent from play to play in Week 10, but he did enough to defeat the New England Patriots, 10-6.
In front of what appeared to be a mostly hostile crowd at Frankfurt Stadium in Frankfort, Germany, Minshew missed wide open receivers multiple times. But he also connected with wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie for a 30-yard completion on third-and-6 on the game's first drive. The possession ended with a Jonathan Taylor touchdown.
The score stood as the only touchdown in the game.
On his last possession, Minshew faced another third-and-medium with 2:51 remaining in the fourth quarter while leading by 4. This time, Minshew scrambled to create more time and then struck rookie Josh Downs for a 28-yard gain.
The Colts still eventually had to punt, but the completion to Downs meant that the Patriots didn't have any timeouts remaining for their two-minute drive.
Minshew finished the game 18-of-28 for 194 yards with an interception.
Indianapolis won despite under 200 passing yards and zero passing touchdowns in large part because of its defense.
Although they gave up 167 rushing yards, the Colts held the Patriots out of the end zone on all three of their red zone possessions. Two of those three New England red zone trips resulted in an interception and missed field goal.
Safety Julian Blackmon ended New England's last red zone possession with an interception at the 1-yard line. The Patriots didn't get another opportunity to take the lead until after Minshew's conversion to Downs.
The play proved to be a turning point for more than one reason. Blackmon's interception of Patriots' Mac Jones led to a New England quarterback change. Bailey Zappe orchestrated the Patriots offense on the final possession.
Despite the quarterback change, the result was the same. safety Rodney Thomas intercepted Zappe with 36 seconds remaining to essentially end the game.
The Colts will return to the United States at 5-5 and on a bye week.
In the crowded AFC field, the Colts still have a long way to go to earn a playoff berth. But thanks to the Week 10 victory, they will stay in the race.