The Herald Bulletin

September 8, 2013

Mike Lopresti: Colts come through in clutch again


The Herald Bulletin

---- — INDIANAPOLIS — One day, the Indianapolis Colts are going to pay if they insist on spending every Sunday on the brink. Absolutely, positively. Not yet, though.

This might sound familiar. It was a tight squeeze at Lucas Oil Stadium, but somehow the Colts slipped through. That 21-17 escape of the un-renowned Oakland Raiders — was it 2013 or was it Memorex?

Yes, the Colts still know how to survive the close, one-possession game. Which they did nine times last season, matching your cat in lives.

Yes, Andrew Luck still understands how to stand icily in a fourth-quarter blast furnace, and quarterback the winning drive. His Stanford degree must have been in comeback engineering.

And, yes, 1-0 is light years better than 0-1, in an NFL which loves its parity like an ant loves a picnic. You might have noticed that Cincinnati, Atlanta, Minnesota and Pittsburgh were among the weekend casualties, and New England was lucky to get past Buffalo.

"A win's a win a win," Luck noted after putting his team ahead to stay with a 19-yard scramble with 5:20 left. "We know it's tough to get wins in the National Football League. Obviously, you don't want to have go down to the wire every game."

No, this was not the opening day stroll in White River Park many expected, against a team that won only four times last season. Not when the game was still in jeopardy until Antoine Bethea's interception at the Indianapolis 6 in the final 30 seconds.

Well, it was a start, anyway. But many questions were left begging.

How, for example, will the Indianapolis defense fare with these confounded quarterbacks who like to run, after Terrelle Pryor turned into such a problem? The Raiders converted a healthy seven of 13 third downs, and Bethea had a quick answer why.

"No. 2 scrambling," he said. "You watched the game. Imagine how we were feeling on the field. He's a pain in the rear end."

Pryor zipped north, south, east and west — sometimes all on the same play. Just think how much fun the Colts might have with San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick in a couple of weeks.

"He had us all over the field all day," defensive end Cory Redding said of Pryor. "Everybody on the defensive unit, I think I speak for them all. We're kind of empty right now."

Then there is the offensive line. Will it protect Luck better this season or not? Luck was sacked four times.

But as he observed, he had the time, "when it counted."

And how about the hopes for a more productive running game? There were some flashes of promise Sunday, but the big run had to be made by Luck on the touchdown. He went back to pass, the Raiders' defense parted, and he turned into Moses.

Put it all together, and as Redding said, "We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of things we have to correct."

But Bethea mentioned that "It's always good if you can go watch the film and make corrections after a win."

No question about one thing. The Colts are still long on pluck and resolve and unity, which is how wobbly games somehow keep getting blown their way.

Pryor might have had the defense calling for oxygen, but when a stop had to be made at the end, it was.

"That's football," Redding said. "Them guys are going to make some plays. You just can't point fingers or judge or start getting mad at each other. You suck it up, line up, and stop them. That's it."

The Oakland defense might have had the Indianapolis offense shackled for long stretches. But not in the final minutes with the game on the line. The Colts went 80 yards in 11 plays to the winning touchdown.

"The DNA of the team is that maybe there's just a little extra focus when that comes," Luck said. "Maybe that little bit of pressure pushes us, in a sense. We know we can't live like that every week. We'll lose our share at the end of the game if that continues to happen."

Yes, they will. Presumably.