Some game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. First there was the result, a fantastic Colts comeback – they trailed 21-3 at halftime and looked awful in the first half – that ended on a missed Green Bay field goal that secured the 30-27 win. There was Reggie Wayne’s epic performance, catching every ball that was anywhere near him. There was Andrew Luck engineering a fantastic drive for the winning touchdown. There was the Colts defense, who righted the ship and made some big plays in the fourth quarter.1
Two bigger things were going on, too.
There was the emotional baggage that came when coach Chuck Pagano announced earlier in the week that he was undergoing cancer treatment and would probably not coach again this year. Despite his brief time in Indy, it’s clear he and the players have a strong connection. It’s a bit corny to say it, but there’s little doubt the Colts were playing a little harder Sunday for their coach. I loved it when defensive tackle Ricardo Mathews, following a Dwight Freeney sack in the fourth quarter, jumped up-and-down like a little kid who could not believe what was under the Christmas tree. There are many emotions in football, but there was a rawness to what the Colts were demonstrating Sunday that was fantastic to see. Well, unless you’re a Packers fan I suppose.
There was a third level, too, that I don’t think is getting much attention. Forgive me for using this term, but Sunday was a perfect storm of emotions that went beyond just beating a Super Bowl contender or playing for an ailing coach. It felt like a massive catharsis for the organization and its fans who have had a rough 18 months or so.
From the moment Mike Caldwell called his inexplicable timeout in the waning seconds of the AFC Wild Card game against the Jets two seasons ago, not much has gone right for the Colts. Sure, they got the number one pick and landed Andrew Luck. But a lot of pain went into getting that pick.
As easy as the end of the Peyton Manning era was outwardly, it was in reality much more difficult. Even fans who had come to terms with the change still had sore feelings about the loss of the city’s sports icon. Even those who believed taking Luck and building for the future was the smart move couldn’t help but wonder how the team would be playing with a healthy-ish Peyton under center.
Sunday that all got taken care of. The comeback, winning for Chuck, Reggie proving he still has it and Andrew showing he indeed has it. That all got mixed together, and in the release at the end of the game, grabbed all the angst from the last 18 months and blasted it away.
That may sound silly to some of you who didn’t see the game, or don’t live in Indy. But believe me, it feels much like it did after Joseph Addai rumbled into the end zone in the 2007 AFC title game and put the Colts in the Super Bowl. There’s a feeling of joyful relief around the city. It is obviously very different, as the Colts are a long way from even thinking about the Super Bowl. But something changed Sunday, when the final seconds ticked off the clock. The new era has officially begun and everyone is onboard and looking forward to the future.
- They also looked awful on a couple drives in the fourth quarter, and were lucky a) the offense bailed them out and b) Green Bay ran out of time. ↩