Colts’ Hasselbeck pushes record to 4-0, joins elite company

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Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Indianapolis Colts passes while under pressure against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts defeated the Bucs 25-12. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 29, 2015) – No sooner had Matt Hasselbeck kept his 2015 record spotless at the expense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium than he offered what amounted to an Aw shucks response.

How, he was asked, does the Indianapolis Colts’ 40-year-old quarterback explain his 4-0 record in relief of injured starter Andrew Luck?

“We’re just playing team football, and I’m just trying to not screw it up,’’ Hasselbeck said after passing for a season-high 315 yards and two touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton in a 25-12 win over the Bucs. “That’s all. I’m just doing what I’m coached to do. I give the coaches a lot of credit. I give the trainers a lot of credit, the strength coaches, my teammates. It’s really more them than me and I’m excited that I get to be out there playing with them.’’

Hasselbeck’s humility is admirable, but he’s selling himself short. He’s kept the Colts in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt – they’re 6-5 and share the AFC South lead with Houston – while Luck has missed four games with an injury to his right shoulder and a lacerated kidney. Luck could miss at least two more games.

History offers better perspective.

With the win over the Bucs, Hasselbeck joined Brett Favre and Warren Moon as the only QBs since the 1970 merger to win four consecutive games. Hasselbeck and Favre are the only ones to do it during one season.

The key to Hasselbeck’s success is rooted in efficiency. In three of his four starts, he’s avoided throwing an interception, and the Colts have played turnover-free twice with him under center. They’ve won each time, and since 1998 are 54-4 in the regular season when they don’t turn the ball over.

Coach Chuck Pagano was asked if Hasselbeck is the epitome of the Colts’ one-game-at-a-time approach. He’ll reclaim his clipboard whenever Luck is ready to return.

“I don’t think he looks at it that way, that I only have so many,’’ Pagano said. “I think what you do is you got to count your blessings. You got to be thankful for what you have. You’ve got to be thankful for today and you’ve got to seize the moment, if you will. Not to be cliché or anything, but I don’t know how many more opportunities any of us are going to have.’’

Hasselbeck’s 300-yard game was his first since he piled up 350 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars Dec. 24, 2011 when he was with the Tennessee Titans.

 

Injury update: Linebacker Jerrell Freeman suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter and did not return. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw exited the game in the fourth quarter with a wrist injury and didn’t return.

Bradshaw’s injury bears monitoring. He has suffered season-ending injuries in each of the past two seasons.

 

Pass rush shows up: The Colts finished with a season-high five sacks of rookie Jameis Winston, all from their linebackers. They had only six in their previous four games. Erik Walden had two while D’Qwell Jackson, Nate Irving and Trent Cole had one each. Cole’s was his first of the season.

“We did our job,’’ said Robert Mathis, who contributed two tackles and one pressure. “That’s what we’re here to do. We’re hired to get after the quarterback.’’

 

This and that: Wide receiver Donte Moncrief led the Colts with a career-best eight catches for 114 yards. . . . T.Y. Hilton added six receptions for 95 yards and two TDs . . . Frank Gore was limited to 24 yards on 19 carries. He upped his career attempts to 2,617 and moved into No. 19 in NFL history. He passed Corey Dillon (2,618) and Ricky Watters (2,622). . . . With one catch for 22 yards, Andre Johnson (13,920 yards) moved past Cris Carter into the No. 11 spot all-time. . . . Jackson led the defense with 11 tackles.

 

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