INDIANAPOLIS – All Chuck Pagano asked the Indianapolis Colts to do was focus on football.
Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne did that and more to honor their ailing coach with a 30-27 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
The rookie quarterback and veteran receiver connected at the most critical moments Sunday, including a 4-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left to complete the Colts’ second-half rally from down 21-3 at half.
“I’m sure we were all lying to everybody the whole week, trying to downplay it,” Luck said after throwing for a career-high 362 yards. “I think we all went out there wanting to do it for Chuck more than anything else ... I think it’s one of the greatest athletic moments I’ve ever been a part of.”
Interim coach Bruce Arians, nicknamed BA, acknowledged he was fighting back tears when he spoke to reporters.
“I’ve got 12 years of [special] games,” said Wayne, who has known Pagano since the two were at the University of Miami together in the late 1990s. “But this did mean a lot, just with the whole deal with how the week’s been going. You know, I talked to coach Pagano and he wanted us to win so bad. Is it a high? Yeah. I don’t necessarily have one other than the Super Bowl game. But it’s up there.”
Luck was 31-for-55 passing with two touchdowns and one interception, and ran for a TD, too.
Wayne caught 13 passes for a career-high 212 yards – the second-highest total in Colts history behind Raymond Berry in 1957.
Green Bay (2-3) had a chance to force overtime with a 51-yard field goal. But Mason Crosby’s attempt went left with 3 seconds to go, setting off an emotional celebration on the Colts sideline.
“I thought they [Colts] played well,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Obviously, a tough week for them. I thought they played with a lot of emotion, a lot of energy. Frankly, I’m more focused on my football team, and my football team is not playing the way we are capable of playing.”
Luck threw an 8-yard TD pass to Dwayne Allen and set up Adam Vinatieri for a 50-yard field goal to make it 21-13 midway through the third quarter. He then ran it in from 3 yards out with 18 seconds left in the third to get the Colts within 21-19.
A few minutes later, Vinatieri hit a 28-yard field goal to give Indy its first lead, 22-21.
Alex Green ran 41 yards on the Packers’ first play on the next drive, and Aaron Rodgers threw an 8-yard TD pass to James Jones on the next one to give the Packers a 27-20 lead with 4:30 to go.
With the clock ticking down and anxious fans hoping and praying they could get this win for Pagano, Luck converted two third-down passes to Wayne, then scrambled for a third third-down conversion before, fittingly, spotting Wayne for the go-ahead score.
“Chuck’s instilled a lot in us,” Wayne said. “His whole motto since day one, the first meeting has been team, team, team. Nothing else. So we’ve wanted to do it every week as a team. That’s all we practice, that’s all we preach.”