By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — The scoreboard had to be a lie.
Even more than two hours after Sunday's game at Lucas Oil Stadium, the numbers casting off a digital glow seemed to be inexplicable.
Had the Indianapolis Colts (4-1) really scored a 34-28 victory in a wild and wacky shootout against the previously undefeated Seattle Seahawks (4-1)? And, if so, how?
A big part of the answer stood in a tan suit with a beard showing a few days' growth outlining his still youthful face. Against a defensive secondary widely regarded as the best in the NFL, Andrew Luck went 11-of-16 for 132 yards in the second half — lowering the boom on Seattle's famed "Legion of Boom."
"Against that team? Extremely difficult," head coach Chuck Pagano said, assessing another clutch performance from his quarterback. "But, again, that's Andrew being Andrew. Again, we're very lucky, no pun intended, to have him."
Luck finished 16-of-29 for 229 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions overall. He posted a 104.0 quarterback rating against a Seattle team that had limited opposing passers to a league-low 60.7 rating through the first two games.
He avoided the big mistakes that doomed Houston's Matt Schaub in an overtime loss a week ago, and he routinely found second-year wide receiver T.Y. Hilton for big plays. The 2012 third-round pick out of Florida International caught five passes for a caree-high 140 yards and both of Luck's touchdowns.
The first score was arguably the most important.
Seattle scored on its first two drives while Indianapolis went three-and-out, then the Seahawks blocked a punt and nearly recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. The play was ultimately ruled a safety, and the Colts were in a 12-0 hole less than five minutes into the game.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll was certain safety Jeron Johnson had recovered the ball in the end zone, and he believed his team should have had a bigger lead.
"There was time to see it you could stop it, he is on, he is laying down and the ball was secure, but (the officials) could not determine that the ball was secure," Carroll said. "So that is the way that they saw it, and that is the way it goes."
Luck answered quickly.
After Seattle punted from the Colts' 48-yard line, Trent Richardson broke through for 2 yards on third-and-1 to give Indianapolis its intial first down of the game.
On the next snap, Luck saw Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman sitting on the out route against Hilton. The receiver released deep and took off down the sideline. Luck hit him in stride, and Hilton made a quick juke on safety Earl Thomas before gliding into the end zone for a 73-yard score.
"When T.Y. is running fast, not many guys can catch him," Luck said. "He had some space. The line did a great job protecting. In those situations, give him a ball that he doesn't have to slow down for and see what happens. When he gets the ball in his hands, good things happen. It turns into a punt return. When he starts running, good things happen."
The touchdown seemed to spark the Colts, and they took the lead for the first time early in the second quarter. Lawrence Guy blocked a 48-yard field goal attempt, and Delano Howell raced with the loose ball 61 yards for a touchdown and a 14-12 lead.
"It definitely gave us some momentum," Howell said. "We never stopped believing. We understood that we were going to have to play for 60 minutes. So it was definitely a big play, and it was a team effort."
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson — who finished 15-of-31 for 210 yards with two scores and one interception and also rushed 13 times for 102 yards — coolly answered with a 12-play, 82-yard scoring drive. His 28-yard pass to a diving Jermaine Kearse gave the Seahawks a 19-14 lead.
Adam Vinatieri added a 41-yard field goal with 58 seconds left in the half, and Steven Hauschka hit a pair of field goals to start the third quarter and put the Seahawks in front 25-17.
That's when Luck and Hilton struck again, with the quarterback lobbing a beautiful 29-yard touchdown pass into the end zone to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. A 2-point conversion pass failed, and the Colts still trailed 25-23.
But there was no doubt Hilton had Seattle's attention.
"He's really, really fast," Carroll said. "We knew it going in. We counted on him to be a big-play guy. They got us with a little formation thing on the first one that we should've played fine, and then they just ran by us on the other one."
Hauschka added another field goal to push the Seahawks lead back out to 28-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
On the game-determining drive, Luck completed all three of his third-down conversions. The first was aided by a pass interference call against Sherman, the second was a 12-yard completion to Hilton and the last was a 3-yard pass to Reggie Wayne that was originally ruled short and overturned on review.
Luck hit Wayne again for 19 yards on the next play, setting up a first-and-goal at the Seattle 3. Donald Brown took the football the rest of the way for the go-ahead score.
"We knew the task at hand," Brown said. "We knew it was going to be a 60-minute fight. On paper, two evenly matched teams, and we just knew it was going to be a 60-minute fight. It was, and that was one heck of a football team we just beat."
Luck completed a 2-point conversion pass across his body to Wayne in the middle of the end zone for a 31-28 lead, and Vinatieri added a 49-yard field goal with 1:55 left for the final margin.
Wilson had one final chance to pull out the comeback win. But he was hit hard by Jerrell Freeman on a fourth-and-15 attempt from his own 37-yard line, and the pass was intercepted by Darius Butler to seal the win with 1:23 to play.
The game goes down as Luck's ninth fourth-quarter comeback victory in 21 starts, and with Tennessee's loss to Kansas City the Colts are alone in first place in the AFC South for the first time since 2010.
"We'd lost our last home game," Luck said of a 24-20 decision against the Miami Dolphins three weeks ago. "To get back on track at home, we take a lot of pride in that. Maybe there's something special about the close ones. A win is a win. I'm sure you ask every guy in the locker room, and they're happy with a win."