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INDIANAPOLIS — A flair for the dramatic has been part of the Indianapolis Colts’ overall makeup ever since Chuck Pagano became head coach.
It’s not intentional. It’s not promoted. It’s simply who they are.
Sunday’s come-from-behind 34-28 victory against Seattle at Lucas Oil Stadium is the latest few pages of this ride packing more whiplash turns than most roller-coasters.
For the second consecutive home game the Colts dug themselves a hole. Unlike the 24-20 loss to Miami on Sept. 15, however, they rallied to take the lead, fell behind for a second time, reclaimed the upper hand and this time held on.
“We knew it was going to be a heavyweight fight. Fifteen rounds,” said Pagano, opting for the boxing analogy that proved accurate given the physicality of the combatants. “Just an unbelievable effort. We knew if we got it close ... this is the most resilient team I’ve ever been around.”
Seattle marched to a 12-0 first-quarter lead by generating points three different ways: Steven Hauschka’s 42-yard field goal followed by quarterback Russell Wilson delivering a 10-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate. The Seahawks then blocked a Pat McAfee punt out the back of the end zone for a safety.
This proved to be the first of many crucial close calls by officials.
In this case, it appeared as though Seahawks’ strong safety Jeron Johnson had controlled possession a split-second before sliding out of the back of the end zone. Had it been ruled a touchdown, Indianapolis might have found a 17-point climb too steep against a Seahawks squad projected to make a deep playoff push this season.
The Colts finally got the offense moving late in the first period as quarterback Andrew Luck connected with T.Y. Hilton for a 73-yard touchdown pass.
Indianapolis then made its own special teams noise, Lawrence Guy deflecting Hauschka’s second field goal attempt, the ball lazily dropping into the hands of safety Delano Howell. The former Stanford University player ran it back 61 yards to put the Colts ahead, 14-12.
Seattle retook the lead with 5:57 to play in the second as Wilson found Jermaine Kearse for a 28-yard score. Adam Vinatieri pulled Indy to within 19-17 with a 41-yard field goal inside the final minute before halftime.
The Seahawks were clinging to a 28-23 lead when Indianapolis tailback Donald Brown burst in from the 3-yard line with 8:55 remaining in the fourth. Vinatieri added an insurance 49-yard field goal at 1:55, but plenty of time remained for Seattle to win at the wire.
Indy’s defense had something else in mind.
Starting from its own 20, the Seahawks used a 22-yard scamper from Wilson, but could go no further. Three straight Wilson incompletions — the second on a diving last-second deflection from cornerback Darius Butler — left the visitors one final opportunity with fourth-and-15.
With the crowd of 66,608 in full-roar, Indianapolis linebacker Jerrell Freeman leveled Wilson as he released the football. The pass hung in the air in the direction of the Seahawks’ sideline before being intercepted by Butler.
“It was deafening. I’ve never heard it that loud in my short time here,” said Pagano. “So many thanks to our fans. They’re unbelievable.”
The win puts the Colts at 4-1 and atop the AFC South entering next Monday night’s game at San Diego.
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