INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – In a game that offered so much, it was a 4-yard completion on fourth-and-1 that drew a lot of post-game discussion. And second-guessing.
Of course, Jacoby Brissett-to-Andrew Luck will demand some explaining, especially when their 4-yard collaboration in the second quarter ended with Luck being driven into the turf by Miami cornerback Rehsad Jones.
“Yeah, I thought, ‘If he gets hurt on this play you guys are going to kill me for a 4-yard completion,’’ Frank Reich said, forcing a laugh after his Indianapolis Colts turned back Miami 27-24 Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
For the record, he added, “that play was not designed for a 4-yard throw to Andrew. That was Jacoby and Andrew making a big play, OK?’’
Brissett replaced Luck under center for the fourth-and-1, with Luck shuffling to the far left of the formation.
Initially, Brissett insisted the play was designed for Luck to score.
“Andrew wasn’t supposed to get tackled,’’ he said with a laugh. “I’m telling you the truth.’’
No, he wasn’t.
“I was going to run it,’’ Brissett said.
The designed call was aborted, though, when safety Minkah Fitzpatrick blitzed and Luck was wide open.
“Jacoby and Andrew adjusted and made a great play,’’ Reich said.
“(Luck’s) eyes lit up when that guy blitzed,’’ Brissett said, “so I was like, ‘OK, you want the ball? Here it comes.’’’
Brissett shrugged when it was mentioned Luck had to jump for the slightly-high pass and was driven into the ground – smack dab on his right shoulder – by Jones.
“He got hit harder in the game,’’ Brissett said.
It marked the second consecutive game Luck was the target of a pass. He made a diving attempt in the end zone of an Eric Ebron pass last week against Tennessee.
After that attempt, Luck insisted he was retiring as a receiver.
“I thought I was,’’ he said. “Now I am.
“I think I am.’’
Luck insisted he didn’t give his right shoulder a second thought until someone in the training room after the game asked him about it.
“I was, ‘It feels great,’’’ he said. “That’s awesome. I’m thankful, as you guys know. I got hit a few times today. It feels like I played a football game.’’
For the record, Luck’s fourth-down conversion kept alive a drive that culminated in his 1-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle.
Sackless streak ends
It had to end at some point, and that point occurred late in the third quarter when Miami defensive end Cameron Wake broke through Luck’s protection for a sack. It ended the offensive line’s club-record streak of five games without allowing a sack.
Luck had attempted 239 passes without being sacked, the third-longest streak in NFL history.
Still on a roll
Luck orchestrated the 20th game-winning drive of his career by overcoming a pair of second-quarter interceptions and leading the Colts on three scoring drives – two Adam Vinatieri field goals, a TD pass to Eric Ebron – in the final 13 minutes.
He completed 30-of-37 passes for 343 yards with three touchdowns and the two interceptions. That’s a passer rating of 109.8. It marked Luck’s fifth straight game with a passer rating above 100, a personal best.
Luck has at least three TD passes in eight straight games, tying Peyton Manning for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Tom Brady had a string of 10 straight in 2011.
Consider Luck’s last five games: 113-of-149 (75.8 percent), 1,320 yards, 16 touchdowns, three interceptions, a 129.6 passer rating.
Leonard worried, relieved
Darius Leonard’s emotions ran the gamut early in the game. On the first play, the Colts’ rookie linebacker remained on the ground following a 7-yard run by Miami’s Frank Gore.
He heard something strange in one of his knees, and thought the worst as he was taken immediately to the locker room.
“I was scared, man, because my sister and my brother both tore their ACL and the way they described their injury was kind of what happened to me,’’ Leonard said. “My knee popped, so I was kind of nervous coming in (to the locker room). When I planted, all of my weight shifted. Then the guy pushed me over and (the knee) kind of got stuck in the ground.
“I actually felt better coming in and then I passed all of the exams. I felt good. I was ready to go back out.’’
Leonard returned for the next Miami series. He wore a small brace “so it wouldn’t get stiff.’’
After the quick scare, Leonard returned to his old ways. He led the Colts with 10 tackles, including nine solos. He also collected his team-best 6th sack of the season.
Adam Vinatieri’s 32-yard field goal as time expired was the 20th game-winning field goal of his 23-year career. It came after what he described as one of the worst attempts of his career.
In the second quarter, he mashed a 48-yard attempt that was short.
“That’s about as ugly of a kick as I’ve ever kicked in my life,’’ Vinatieri said with a shake of his head. “I did not clearly hit it well at all. I think I hit behind the ball 6-8 inches, which is not characteristic of me most of the time.’’
He admitted “beating himself up’’ for about 30 seconds before he retreated to the kicking net to regain his rhythm.
“Kick five more balls and make sure that thing’s done and gone,’’ he said.
Game-winning field goals, Vinatieri added, never get old.
“Not when you have one of the worst kicks in your lifetime before that,’’ he said. “It’s good to get that monkey off your back a little bit.’’
Ebron on record run
Don’t look now, but Ebron is closing in on a couple of Colts’ single-season records.
The offseason free-agent acquisition added two more TD catches to his 2018 resume. That pushed his total to 11, tying Dallas Clark’s record for a tight end set in 2007.
Within reach: Marvin Harrison’s record of 15 TDs, which the Hall of Fame wideout reached twice.
For perspective, consider Ebron 11 touchdowns on 186 receptions in four seasons with Detroit. He’s now had 11 on 44 catches with the Colts.
Clark was in town last week when the Colts added Reggie Wayne into the Ring of Honor. Ebron was unable to meet him because of his game responsibilities.
“When I was growing up, one of the tight ends you heard about all the time was Dallas Clark,’’ he said. “No gloves, taped fingers and he goes out there and he gets it.
“So for me to be on his heels, it’s impressive. Hopefully I can just keep it going and stay healthy.’’
Running back Marlon Mack did not return after suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter. To that point, he had rushed 15 times for 85 yards and caught two passes for 11 yards.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.