The connection between quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receiver Reggie Wayne has been vital to the Colts’ success this season.
It paid off one more time for the game-winning play in Week 16. Luck hit Wayne for a seven-yard touchdown with just over four minutes to play to break a 13-13 tie and put the Colts on the verge of a playoff berth. The defense forced a three-and-out and rookie running back Vick Ballard ran for a first down to ice the game on the next Colts possession.
Give the Colts defense a lot of credit for this one. Darius Butler’s interception return opened the scoring for them and they stuffed Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn short on a fourth-and-inches play early in the fourth quarter. The Colts took the ball and went 73 yards in 13 plays to set up Wayne’s game-winning score. It had not been a great day for the Colts offense to that point, but they were able to come up with the drive they needed to punch their postseason ticket.
While you’re giving the defense credit, though, make sure that you’re careful to note all the chances the defense gave Kansas City as well. Jamaal Charles had 226 yards on 22 carries, including an 86-yard touchdown run, and Peyton Hillis ran for 101 yards. Given the lack of threat posed by Quinn, it’s pretty damning that the Colts couldn’t keep Kansas City from running the ball.
That will likely be something for Chuck Pagano to worry about. The head coach is expected to return to work on Monday after months away from the team battling leukemia. Fixing the run defense before the playoffs will be hard, but it’s a good problem to have after drafting first overall last April.