Packers vs. Colts: A Comeback for the Ages for Reggie Wayne, Colts
Thomas J. Russo-US PRESSWIRE
Don't call it a miracle.
The Colts are praying for miracles these days, but they hope for far bigger ones than can be found on the football field.
In their first game without head coach Chuck Pagano, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia, the Colts rallied from a 21-3 halftime deficit behind a gritty performance from veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
Wayne dazzled the home fans with a spectacular one-handed self-tipped diving grab in the first half, then piled up 13 receptions, 212 yards and a game-winning touchdown that saw him will his way through multiple defenders to put the Colts in the lead.
It was a tale of two halves, and for the first 30 minutes, the Packers had their way with the Colts. Aaron Rodgers picked up a pair of touchdown passes as Green Bay sliced through a crippled Indianapolis secondary. As expected, it was all Packers.
At halftime, there were no overturned tables or "rah-rah" speeches in the Indianapolis locker room. The team refocused on execution and chose not to panic.
The transformation in the defense was instantaneous. Instead of gaping throwing lanes, the Colts' secondary blanketed the Green Bay wideouts, forcing Rodgers into bad throws, scrambles and sacks.
The Indianapolis comeback happened in fits and spurts, as Andrew Luck battled shoddy protection as he fought to keep drives alive with big throws on third down and key scrambles. His heroics led Indianapolis to 16 points on three third-quarter drives.
Through it all, the common denominator was the play of Wayne. His history with Pagano extends back to their days at the University of Miami more than a decade ago, and Wayne made it his personal mission to claw the Colts back into the game.
By the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Colts had finally taken a 22-21 lead thanks to a chip shot by Adam Vinatieri. Both teams traded punts before Green Bay took over with just under five minutes to play.
It took Rodgers only two plays to move the Packers 51 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, thanks in part to a 41-yard run by Alex Green.
The Packers had scored too quickly.
Luck took over with 4:30 to play and a five-point deficit, and did what he has done all season.
He excelled in the clutch.
Luck converted three third downs, each over seven yards, on the final drive. He twice hit Wayne for conversions before scrambling down to the Green Bay 4-yard line with 47 seconds on the clock.
The game-winning pass to Wayne was short of the end zone, but Wayne extended his arms and nicked the plane of the goal with the nose of the football. A two-point conversion run by Donald Brown, and the Colts had a 30-27 lead.
Rodgers nearly brought the Packers back, moving them down to the Indy 33-yard line, but a critical wasted timeout stole their final chance to move the ball closer. Mason Crosby then sent the potential tying field goal wide to the left, touching off wild celebrations through Lucas Oil Stadium.
For the Colts, the victory is deeply meaningful, both on the field and in the standings. Obviously, given the turmoil the players, coaches and staff have endured, being rewarded with one of the truly memorable wins in team history is an unexpected respite from the storm.
For Coach Pagano, we can only imagine his spirits were lifted by the gutty performance by his team.
The win evened the Colts' record on the season at 2-2 and will certainly give rise to talk that they may be better than experts anticipated. It is hard to reconcile that the team that looked so dead in the first half was the same squad that stormed back to win in the second.
With the Titans and Jaguars both suffering blowout losses to drop to 1-4 apiece, Indianapolis can now assert that they are the second-best team in the AFC South and can credibly claim they can compete with any team.
Colts fans exiting the stadium down Capitol Avenue in Indianapolis were treated to the familiar refrains of the Battle Hymn of the Republic sounding from the bells of St. John's Catholic Church.
While many joined in the singing of "Glory, glory, Hallelujah!", everyone knew that while what they had just seen was amazing, it was not a miracle.
The miracle all of Indianapolis is waiting for is yet to come.
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