Colts’ notebook: Robert Mathis goes out in style
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Now that’s a closing act.
In his 210th and final game with the team that gave him his shot 14 years ago, Robert Mathis went out in style.
Included in the Indianapolis Colts’ season-ending 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium was 123rd sack and 47th sack/forced fumble of his decorated career. The former padded his franchise record. The latter extended his NFL record.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my defensive line, my trench guys,’’ said Mathis, who announced his retirement Friday. “They wanted to make sure I got to that quarterback at least one more time so they cleared the way and gave the old man a nice little going away present.’’
Then, the old man delivered a present – the commemorative football – to his wife, Brandi, in the stands.
“It’s magical,’’ Mathis said. “I remember the first ball I gave was to my mom.’’
Emma Mathis passed away in October 2014.
“She’s watching,’’ he said. “She’s no longer here so I gave it to my wife.’’
Few have given more of themselves to the Colts. It seemed appropriate for Mathis’ final game to coincide with long-time front office executive Bill Polian being added to the Ring of Honor. Mathis, a fifth-round pick in 2003, represents arguably the shrewdest of Polian’s draft picks.
Polian called Mathis “the quintessential Colt.’’
In 14 seasons, Mathis was voted to six Pro Bowls and established himself as one of the NFL’s most disruptive forces. He led the NFL with a club-record 19.5 sacks in 2013.
While Sunday was Mathis’ last game, he tried to treat it like the previous 209.
“I made sure I stuck to the same format,’’ he said. “Eggs, one pancake, piece of bacon, orange juice, listened to my music, dialed in and played the game the way I know how.’’
However, Mathis added it was “very bitter sweet. The fact that you know it’s going to be your last, you don’t want it to end. Fourteen years into it, still never take it for granted. Still a blessing, still an honor to be a professional football player.
“Now, just don’t want it to end, but to be able to be in position to say goodbye to the city, to the fan base and the teammates just the way they did, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
“It’s just been a very great day for me. Not a whole lot can mess this up right now.’’
Chuck Pagano was lavish in his praise for Mathis.
“What a great way to finish for Rob,’’ he said. “I couldn’t be more happier for a guy. There is nobody more deserving than Robert Mathis and what he has meant to this football team, this organization and this city.’’
Gore gets there: There was uncertainly early as the Colts fell into a 17-3 halftime deficit, but running back Frank Gore ended an embarrassing drought.
An 18-yard run in the third quarter pushed Gore over the 1,000-yard mark, making him the first Colt since Joseph Addai in 2007 to reach the coveted level. He fell 33 yards shy in 2015.
Gore also became the first running back 33 or older to rush for at least 1,000 yards since John Riggins in 1984.
“Oh, man, it’s a blessing,’’ Gore said. “Especially coming here and (they) haven’t gotten it done since ’07.’’
Gore finished with 1,025 yards and joined Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith (11 times), Curtis Martin (10), Walter Payton (10) and Barry Sanders (10) as the only players in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards nine times.
So does T.Y.: Another individual milestone was achieved as wideout T.Y. Hilton became the first Colt since Reggie Wayne in 2007 to lead the NFL in receiving yards.
Hilton had six catches for 95 yards, pushing his season total to 1,448, the fifth-best in team history. His 91 catches and 1,448 yards are career bests.
Atlanta’s Julio Jones finished second to Hilton with 1,409 yards.
The only other Colts to lead the league are Marvin Harrison, Roger Carr and Raymond Berry.
Vinatieri misses: Adam Vinatieri missed his shot at a $500,000 bonus when a 48-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter glanced off the right upright.
To trigger the bonus, Vinatieri had to convert 90 percent of his attempts. He entered the game 26-of-29, 89.655 percent. One successful kick would have put him at 90 percent.
He finished the season 27-of-31, 87.1 percent, after knocking down a 45-yarder in the second half.
Looking ahead: The opponents for 2017 have been set.
At home: Houston, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Arizona, San Francisco and Denver.
Away: Houston, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Seattle, LA Rams and Buffalo.