There they were, on the precipice of disaster, staring into the abyss. Down 38-10 with 27 minutes remaining in the second half, some Colts fans had already begun to leave, and who could blame them? The game was over. The Colts couldn’t possibly comeback from this one. But come back they did. Final score: 45-44 Colts.
In the entire history of the league, there is just one example of a larger comeback: When the Buffalo Bills came back from a 32-point deficit to beat the Houston Oilers 41-38 in 1993.
It would be hard to distill such an epic comeback down to a single, crucial play. Rather it was a series of crucial plays, followed by yet another series of crucial plays…and so on…and so on. Or, as tight end Coby Fleener put it, “There was a realization that there’s no one play that’s going to get you back in the game.”
As a Colts fan, you had to be a little concerned by the ease with which Kansas City moved the ball down the field. But when Andrew Luck and the Colts offense responded with a flawless 7-play drive of their own things still looked manageable.
And then it came apart at the seams.
It started when Colts running back Trent Richardson fumbled the ball on Indianapolis’ opening play of the second quarter. The Chiefs responded with a 3-play touchdown-scoring drive on a 5-yard pass from Alex Smith to receiver Anthony Sherman.
And then Andrew Luck did something he rarely does: Play horrible. By the time the Chiefs scored to make it 38-10 Luck had thrown three interceptions, and it was looking grim, at least to anyone not wearing red.
But then Robert Mathis gave the Colts their first spark, with a crucial sack-fumble against Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, and in doing so, gave Andrew Luck an opportunity to do what he has done so many times in the past, which is play like a champion when it matters most.
It started when he led the Colts on a 5-play, 41-yard drive that culminated in a Donald Brown touchdown. It continued when Luck hit Coby Fleener on a 12-yard touchdown pass.
And it continued on the Colts next series, when Luck had the presence of mind to scoop up a fumbled ball, which fortuitously bounced his way, and lunge into the end zone, arm extended with ball-in-hand.
But Luck didn’t do it all by himself. Someone has to catch all those passes, after all. Enter T.Y. Hilton, who used his blazing speed to get past both Chiefs safeties and catch a perfectly-thrown Andrew Luck pass in-stride for a 64-yard touchdown. With an extra point by Adam Vinatieri, the Colts took their first lead of the day. It was a lead they would not relinquish.
“That game pushed your faith and trust to the limit right there,” linebacker Erik Walden said. “That was the worst. And then you come back and win it? Come on, man. Anything is possible after that.”
He may be right. It’s not just any team that does what the Colts did. In the direst of circumstances, when the laws of probability make defeat a virtual certainty, many teams would have simply given up.
“One thing we talked about this week is you can measure a lot of things at the Combine and all those type of things, but you can’t measure what’s inside a man. You can’t measure his heart. And these guys got more heart and grit than anybody I’ve ever been around, just the simple fact that they stuck to the process and never doubted.”
There are comebacks, and there are Comebacks. If there is one lesson to be learned from a game like this, it’s that it’s never a safe bet to count out the Colts. This is one of those games that will be forever emblazoned in the minds of Colts fans. Agonizing in its lows, yet so rewarding in the end. One down. Three to go.