Did the Colts’ bounce back begin on Jan. 25 or April 28?
On the first date, they hired Head Coach Chuck Pagano, who has gone on to captivate the nation with his fight against leukemia. On the second date, they drafted quarterback Andrew Luck, the highest-touted prospect to come out of college in quite some time.
Those two figures have largely built what has been a fairy-tale season in Indianapolis.
The Colts went from 2-14 last year – the worst record in the league – to 11-5 this season and are headed back to the playoffs.
So how did the Colts get there? Here are some of the key moments from their season:
Week 1 – 41-21 loss to Chicago
The Luck era didn’t get off to a good start. In his first game, he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. He still threw for more than 300 yards, but Luck tossed 45 passes as he was fighting from behind for much of the game.
Week 2 – 23-20 win over Minnesota
The Colts bounced back to win in their first home game of the new era thanks to a game-winning, 53-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with eight seconds left. It was the first of four wins this season by three or fewer points.
Week 4 – 30-27 win over Green Bay
Indianapolis got a statement win over a team with Super Bowl aspirations. The Colts held quarterback Aaron Rodgers to 235 yards passing and Luck delivered the game-winning, 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Reggie Wayne with 35 seconds left.
Week 5 – 35-9 loss to New York Jets
The Colts took another blowout loss on the road, this time against a team that was struggling offensively and didn’t end up making the playoffs. On the surface, this was Indianapolis’ worst loss of the season. Luck was picked off twice.
Week 8 – 19-13 (OT) win in Tennessee
Indianapolis rallied to tie by scoring a touchdown with 3:24 remaining in regulation. Then running back Vick Ballard scored a leaping, twisting touchdown on a 16-yard pass in overtime for the victory. The play seemed to define Indy’s magical start.
Week 9 – 23-20 win over Miami
The Colts got a memorable surprise when Pagano walked into the locker room following another fourth-quarter win. Pagano delivered an impassioned speech to the team that left the rest of the NFL world in awe. It was Pagano’s first time back with his team since leaving in September.
Week 11 – 59-24 loss in New England
In a big-time matchup with Tom Brady and the Patriots, Luck threw three interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. The Patriots blew them out, showing the Colts weren’t quite ready to hang with the AFC elite.
Week 13 – 35-33 win in Detroit
It came down to the final play of the game and Luck delivered. He tossed a short pass to Donnie Avery for the game-winning touchdown as time expired for Indianapolis’ most thrilling victory of the season. The Colts scored 14 points in the final 2:54.
Week 17 – 28-16 win over Houston
In Pagano’s first game back on the sideline, the Colts delivered an emotional victory. They notched big plays down the stretch to seal the win. Deji Karim had a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Luck hit T.Y. Hilton with a perfect deep pass for a 70-yard score in the fourth quarter.