INDIANAPOLIS — True grit.
If Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is to be believed, that particular character trait was a big component in his team’s 34-28 come-from-behind win over previously undefeated Seattle Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Indianapolis trailed the entire first half and for most of the final two quarters. It took a 3-yard touchdown run by Donald Brown -- along with a 2-point conversion pass from Andrew Luck to Reggie Wayne -- with 8:55 remaining in the game gave the Colts a 31-28 lead.
Throw in some hard-nosed defense on the last two Seahawks’ possessions of the game, which culminated in a Darius Butler interception of a Russell Wilson pass with 1:23 left on the clock, and Indianapolis was able to come away with its fourth win of the season.
“Obviously a huge win. A lot of credit to the Seattle Seahawks team. They’re an outstanding football team in all three phases. We knew this was going to be a heavyweight fight. Fifteen rounds,” an elated Pagano said afterward.
“We talked about staying the course, sticking to the process. We knew that they were going to make plays. We were going to make some plays. [The game] didn’t start off the way we wanted it to start out. But the guys just hung in.”
Did they ever.
With Luck having perhaps his best overall game of the season and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton seemingly always open, the Colts stayed within striking distance for most of the day.
Luck wound up completing 16-of-29 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Hilton hauled in five passes of a career-best 140 yards and both TDs. He had touchdown receptions of 73 and 29 yards against what is arguably the best secondary in the National Football League.
The win was the ninth fourth-quarter comeback led by Luck during his relatively brief NFL career. He tied former Arizona and Denver quarterback Jake Plummer for the most fourth-quarter comebacks during the first two years of their professional careers.
But as good as Luck and Hilton were, it was Seattle’s offense -- led by second-year quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch as well as receivers Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice -- that did the damage early on.
Wilson connected on 15-of-31 passes for 210 yards for a pair a touchdowns to Tate and backup receiver Jermaine Kearse. He also proved elusive with his legs, scrambling for 102 yards on 13 carries, as he managed to keep drive alive. Lynch also had 102 yards on the ground on 17 rushing attempts.
Seattle also scored on four field goals by placekicker Steven Hauschka from 42, 36, 41 and 46 yards out.
Hauschka’s second field goal attempt of the day, from 48 yards, was blocked by Colts defensive end Lawrence Guy and returned 61 yards for a touchdown by safety Delano Howell. It was the first blocked field goal and returned for a touchdown by Indianapolis since 2004.
The Seahawks’ had taken a 12-0 lead late in the first quarter when Kearse blocked a Pat McAfee punt attempt and the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone before it could be recovered for a touchdown.
It had initially appeared as if Seattle’s Jeron Johnson had recovered the ball before the ball went out of bound for a touchdown. But a video replay was ruled inconclusive by game officials.
Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri made both of his field goal attempts, hitting from 41 and 49 yards out. Vinatieri’s last kick came with 1:55 left in the game and put the Colts on top by six points, negating a potential last ditch Seattle drive for a tying field goal.
“We knew this [game] was going to [be decided] in the fourth quarter,” Pagano admitted. “[Seattle] had out-scored their opponents 44-7 in the fourth quarter [in their first four games]. We knew if we just got it close. This is just the most resilient team that I’ve ever been around.
“They’ve got more grit than any team that I’ve ever been around. I can’t tell you how proud I am of every man in that locker room.”
The Colts coach later expanded on his comments about the mental make-up of his players.
“Nobody’s built better to win these close games,” he stressed. “Especially down the stretch. And especially in the fourth quarter than this team. You look at what they did last year with seven fourth-quarter comebacks. And then to be able to hang in here, hang in there, hang in there and then take the lead and move on.”
Pagano knows where his team’s resiliency starts.
“[Luck] just wills this team to victory. He’s unbelievable. He’s able to stick to the process, doesn’t matter what the score is or what the situation is,” he points out.
“The guy just finds ways to make plays. Finds a way to get out of the pocket. Finds a way to extend. The guys believe in him. We can jump on his shoulders, jump on his back. We’re just very, very fortunate to have him.”
Indianapolis will take its 4-1 record to San Diego next Monday night in a nationally-televised game. The Seahawks, meanwhile, dropped to 4-1 overall and will play at home against Tennessee on Sunday.