Another one from ageless Colts Matt Hasselbeck, Adam Vinatieri
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 22, 2015) – Chalk up another one for the Indianapolis Colts’ eldest statesmen.
That would be placekicker Adam Vinatieri, at 42 the NFL’s oldest active player.
And that would be quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, at 40 the league’s oldest non-kicker.
They’ve combined for 504 regular-season appearances, and more than a few memorable moments. The latest came Sunday in the Indianapolis Colts’ dramatic 24-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons in a stunned Georgia Dome.
Vinatieri completed the improbable comeback with a 43-yard field goal with 52 seconds remaining. It was the 26th game-winning kick in the final minute of regulation or overtime of his illustrious career, and came in his 300th regular-season game.
Hasselbeck took another step in his attempt at earning the NFL’s Reliever of the Year Award (OK, there’s no such honor). Making a third start in replace of injured Andrew Luck, he helped keep the Colts’ postseason aspirations alive by directing them to a third Luck-less victory.
According to the NFL, Hasselbeck joins Brett Favre and Warren Moon as the only quarterbacks since the 1970 merger to win threee consecutive starts at the age of 40.
“He’s unbelievable,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said of Hasselbeck. “He’s 3-0 as a starter this year. He has prepared like a starter ever since he has been on our ball team.
“He’s a smart guy and knows where to go with the football. He’s craft. He’s one of those guys, and even at his age, he can scramble and extend plays.’’
“He’s the definition of grit,’’ said receiver T.Y. Hilton.
Hasselbeck suffered his first two interceptions of the season, but countered them with a pair of touchdown passes to running back Ahmad Bradshaw. He completed 23-of-32 passes for 213 yards.
So often, he found a way.
With 2 minutes to play, things tied at 21-all and the Colts facing a third-and-2 at the Atlanta 42, Hasselbeck hooked up with Donte Moncrief for a 10-yard completion. It moved them into legitimate position for a Vinatieri field goal, and enabled them to use most of the remaining time on the clock.
Hasselbeck, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, Luck and others huddled on the sideline at the 2-minute warning. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski led the discussion from his spot in the press box.
“We kicked around a lot of different plays,’’ Hasselbeck said. “It was Chud calling the play from the box and we settled in on where Donte can do whatever he wants to do to get open on the backside, and then working with a three-receiver set on the side.
“They were in perfect coverage for it, but Donte kept his guy on a spin move and shook him and we were able to have a big play and put ourselves in Adam’s range just trying to milk the clock.’’
Four plays later, it was Vinatieri’s turn. And there never was a doubt. He opened the season by missing his first two field goal attempts. With his latest game-winner, he’s knocked down 12 straight.
“The guys up front did a fantastic job again and they make my job easier,’’ Vinatieri said. “I don’t know where I go mentally, but I just try to focus in.’’
Not surprisingly, Pat McAfee, Vinatieri’s holder, was more effusive when discussion Vinatieri.
“Let’s talk about Adam,’’ he said. “The guy is wearing Depends and knocking home game-winners every week. It’s incredible to watch him and I’m lucky to be teammates with that guy.
“I don’t know how it is everywhere else as I’ve been fortunate to have him my entire career. But every time we are going on the field for a game-winner, it’s like we are in warm-ups and we are just chit-chatting about ‘You will hit it here. How’s it feeling?’
“But whenever he gets set . . . he becomes like Iceman and I don’t even exist.’’
McAfee insisted Vinatieri is casual when lining up for most attempts. When it’s for a potential game-winner, Vinatieri’s demeanor changes.
“I turn back (and) he looks like just the soulless man back there ready to just make it happen,’’ McAfee said. “There’s never a doubt and I’m always excited to celebrate as soon as he kicks it because you know it’s going through.
“That’s why he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and why I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have him as a mentor.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.