For all the new faces on the roster, it took big plays from three familiar ones to deliver the Colts from the doorstep of ignominy Sunday afternoon. After Andrew Luck scrambled 19 yards for the go-ahead score with 5:20 remaining, Robert Mathis chased down Terrelle Pryor for a critical sack, setting up Antoine Bethea’s interception in the shadow of the end zone that preserved the Colts’ 21-17 victory over Oakland at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Strange things happened all over the NFL on opening week. The (purportedly) Super Bowl-bound Bengals got whacked by the Bears. The Patriots needed a late score to beat Buffalo. Pittsburgh, which never loses an opener at home, lost an opener at home – to Tennessee, no less. And there were, what, four safeties? So the Colts avoided falling into that trap, but just barely. Pep Hamilton’s stubborn commitment to the running game took the ball out of Luck’s hands all too often, and did little to give the quarterback more room to operate when he did drop back. The defense was tortured all day long by Pryor’s running ability. And Chuck Pagano’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-one late in the third quarter led to the Raiders’ go-ahead score. All in all, a pretty moribund performance by the Colts, but better to win ugly than the alternative.
- “Our guys played their tails off. They overcame probably some coaching a little bit.” – Pagano
- “We don’t want to play our best ball today. We want to play better than we played today next Sunday, a week from now, against the Dolphins. You want to play your best ball at the end of the season.” – Pagano
- “If there’s a minute left on the clock and we need a score, there’s no one I’d rather have under center than that guy.” – Pagano on Luck
- “It’s a great learning lesson for us because we’ll be able to go back and look at the tape and the next time we have to face it, the next time we have to see it, we’ll be better the next time.” – Pagano on defending the read-option
- “They doubled Reggie (Wayne) so that means one more guy out of the box, if you will. Great protection. Sometimes when it just opens up like that, you can’t help but go.” – Luck on his game-winning scramble
- “It doesn’t change your approach but I think the DNA of the team is that maybe there’s just a little extra focus when that comes.” – Luck on fourth-quarter success
- “I’ll tell you, Terrelle Pryor is a stud. He made some unbelievable plays.” – Luck
- “It was a hard fought game. (I’m) very, very tired.” – Mathis
- “I fell to my knees because you know the defense we were in, he’s sneaky, he always does that at practice. So I think Terrelle Pryor, he baited him.” – Greg Toler on Bethea’s interception
- “He inspires everybody in the huddle; nothing seems to get him down even when they took the lead today. We went out there and he said ‘This is going to be the drive, this is going to be the drive to win the game right here.’ He is always confident and he knows it what he can do with his ability. We are blessed to have him and have nice strong legs. He plays like he is a 15-year vet.” – Reggie Wayne on Luck
STAT OF THE GAME
This was Luck’s eighth game-winning drive in fourth quarter or overtime in 17 regular-season starts.
After the Colts jumped out to a 14-0 lead with Luck completing his first eight attempts for 113 yards and two touchdowns, things went south in a hurry. The offense came up empty on its next four drives as the Raiders chipped away behind Pryor. Going for it on on fourth and one at the Colts’ 43, Luck was sacked for a 16-yard loss by Jason Hunter, and Pryor promptly used the short field to march the Raiders to the go-ahead score, converting three third downs in the process, including the five-yard scoring toss to Denarius Moore.
But Luck took it from there. He converted a huge third-and-eight with a pass to T.Y. Hilton, and a third-and-two with a slant to Wayne, who was hit in the head by defensive back Tracy Porter, drawing a critical 15-yard personal foul penalty that pushed the Colts to the Oakland 25. On third-and-four from the 19, Luck dropped back but the Raiders’ defense parted and he tucked the ball and charged toward the end zone, following a key block by wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey into the end zone.
Pryor immediately found tight end Jeron Mustrad uncovered behind the secondary for a 41-yard gain to the Colts’ 30. On fourth-and nine from the 29, he hit Moore for a 21-yard gain to the eight. But on first-and-goal, Mathis finally chased down the young quarterback for a huge 16-yard loss and two players later his floater toward Rod Streater in the end zone was picked off by Bethea.
BY THE NUMBERS
The quarterbacks were the show for both sides. Luck completed 18 of 23 for 178 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 38 more, giving him 216 of the Colts’ meager 274 total yards. Pryor was 19 of 29 for 217 yards, one TD and two picks and rushed for 112 yards on 13 carries, so he amassed 329 of the Raiders’ 372.
With Vick Ballard (13 carries, 63 yards) getting most of the work, the Colts rushed 26 times for 127 yards, a solid 4.9 average. But the run game did little to make things easier on Luck, who was hit eight times in addition to four sacks and was flushed from the pocket six times.
Among the receivers, Wayne had another huge game with eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. Heyward-Bey and Hilton had three receptions apiece.
The defense did a solid job against Darren McFadden, limiting him to 48 yards on 17 carries, but was perhaps too focused on the running back between the tackles and was constantly burned by the quarterback on the edges.
The Colts entered the game without starting inside linebacker Pat Angerer (concussion) and exited it without tight end Dwayne Allen (hip).
An aggressive Miami defense awaits Luck next Sunday. The Dolphins came up with six sacks and three interceptions in a 23-10 dismantling of Cleveland. Ryan Tannehill passed for 272 yards, 114 to Brian Hartline.