The Colts and 4th Quarter Comebacks


Recently, the 4th quarter comeback has been a staple for the Indianapolis Colts. With the drafting of Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in 2012, the Colts returned to a level they were when Peyton Manning was under center for 14 years. However, the methods Luck and co. got there were due to an 11-5 season in 2012. Seven of those eleven wins were an effort of a 4th quarter comeback/game-winning drives. It brought us back to the days of yonder when Peyton Manning would work his magic and orchestrate comebacks that Colts fans still remember to this day. Andrew Luck tied Peyton Manning’s 4th quarter comebacks in a season record with seven. Peyton Manning got this record in 2009 when the Colts went 14-2 and lost in the Super Bowl to the Saints.

However, there’s been commotion that perhaps the Colts should beat the teams they have to beat emphatically rather than having a 4th quarter comeback against inferior teams like the Chiefs last year or the Raiders this year. Although there is merit to these claims, one has to remember that Peyton Manning also had to bring the Colts back from the depths of defeat back to a victory. As the 2011 season showed us, the team was based around Peyton Manning carrying it to success year in and year out. Without Peyton, the team faltered to a terrible 2-14 season.

Let’s take a look at all 4th quarter opportunities for Andrew Luck.

  • 2012 Week 2 Vikings: Colts took a 20-6 lead into halftime only to have the Vikings score 14 unanswered points. Luck leads a drive with 31 seconds left in the 4th for a Colts field goal and a Colts victory. WIN
  • 2012 Week 3 vs. Jaguars: Colts took a 14-3 lead into halftime only to allow 13 unanswered to Jacksonville. Colts managed to score a field goal with under a minute to play but with Jacksonville’s next offensive play, Blaine Gabbert throws a 80 yard TD to Cecil Shorts. Colts are then unable to construct a game winning touchdown drive as Luck’s pass to Reggie Wayne in the endzone is incomplete after time expires. LOSS
  • 2012 Week 5 vs. Packers: Packers took a 21-3 score into halftime as the Colts came storming out the gates in the 2nd half scoring 19 unanswered. Luck to Wayne with 35 seconds to go takes the lead in the 4th quarter and ultimately leads the Colts to victory. WIN
  • 2012 Week 8 @ Titans: Colts were behind 10-3 at halftime but managed to tie the game 13-13 with a minute left in the fourth. Colts get the ball first in overtime and on their first drive, score a TD to win the game. WIN
  • 2012 Week 9 vs. Dolphins: Colts were down 17-13 at halftime but managed to tie the game in the third quarter. Miami would take tie the game with a Field Goal in the 4th but the Colts would eventually score the go-ahead Field Goal and secure the victory. WIN
  • 2012 Week 13 @ Lions: With the Colts down 12 with 8 minutes left in the game. Andrew Luck and the Colts would orchestrate two TD scoring drives with the latter drive being sealed with time expired for the comeback win. WIN
  • 2012 Week 14 vs. Titans: The Colts would be down 20-7 at halftime but would take the lead by 1 point in the 3rd quarter. Titans in the 4th would take the lead with a Field Goal but Colts would reclaim the lead with two consecutive Field Goal scoring drives. WIN
  • 2012 Week 15 @ Texans: The Colts would be down just 6 points by the start of the fourth quarter but no offensive drive ever materialized into anything more but punts as the Texans would score two more field goals and finish off the Colts. LOSS
  • 2012 Week 16 @ Kansas City: The Colts took a 13-3 lead into halftime only to watch it evaporate as the Chiefs score 10 unanswered and tied the game in the 3rd. The Colts would take the lead late in the 4th quarter thanks to a Reggie Wayne touchdown catch which cemented not only a win, but a playoff birth too. WIN
  • 2012 Wild Card @ Baltimore: With the game within reach in the 4th quarter, the Colts looked to tie the game at seventeen all but the offense couldn’t unlock the Baltimore defense. Their first fourth quarter drive resulted in a missed field goal. The Ravens would march down the field and score a touchdown extending the lead 24-9. Luck would then throw an interception late in the 4th quarter thus negating any sort of comeback opportunity and eliminating the Colts from the playoffs. LOSS
  • 2013 Week 1 vs. Raiders: Colts got ahead 14-0 but the Raiders would score 17 unanswered throughout the game. Luck then runs for a 19 yard touchdown giving the Colts the lead and the victory. WIN
  • 2013 Week 2 vs. Dolphins: The game was tied at halftime with the Colts scoring 14 unanswered. Colts took the lead on a field goal but Dolphins scored a touchdown shortly after and the Colts failed on two potential 4th quarter drives. One being a Luck interception and one being Luck sacked on 4th and 10.

Although there are some losses you cannot fault too much, the Jaguars one comes to mind when it was a choke job from the defense in allowing the Jaguars to comeback. The reliance on Luck to carry the team was only incorporated four potential occurrences with three being wins and one being a loss.

Sometimes Luck may be unable to rally the troops as he has done four times in his career. He is not perfect and will sometimes falter in the clutch. Everybody does at a time, look at Peyton, Brady, etc. Think of the situation like a closer in baseball. Not every closer is flawless. Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer in MLB history but has blown several important saves such as Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.

The same applies to game games involving wins due to a defensive collapse and resorted Luck to bail them out such as the Chiefs, Vikings, and Raiders. Although it shows Luck’s great skill to lead a comeback, the Colts very well should have locked the game up as it was unnecessary to have a win the way it was.

However, both games against the Titans, Packers, Lions, and 2012 Dolphins are patented comebacks with some being miraculous comeback while some being your textbook 4th quarter comeback. Had the Colts beaten Miami this past Sunday, it would be apart of a positive sense as the game was close throughout the game.

Although miraculous comebacks like the ones against Green Bay and Detroit are ones to cherish, games like the Vikings and Chiefs are ones to pull your hair out in. A win is a win but sometimes the circumstances in which a win happens usually deserve some criticism.

For example, say the Colts would be up 24-6 against the 49ers by halftime this coming Sunday. They blow the lead by the 4th quarter and the score being 27-24. If the Colts were to comeback and win, how would it be interpreted? Narrowly escaping an elite opponent or miraculous comeback versus an elite opponent? It’s debatable for sure because the new look Colts never experienced a win of this situation against a superior team.

However, a comeback akin to the Packers game would be considered an astronomical success and warrant no negativity whatsoever and rightfully so. A comeback win on the road against the defending NFC Champions would be great for the Colts moving forward.

Imagine the Colts blow a early lead and wind up losing to the 49ers now. This isn’t the Jaguars anymore, this is a real contender. The outcry could be enormous due to another win getting away from them and Andrew Luck couldn’t bail them out.

No matter the way you look at it, a win is a win regardless of the outcome. The only concern to me is that the Colts shouldn’t have to rely on Andrew Luck to bail them out when the going gets tough due to blown leads. This defense is more talented than it has been in years and shouldn’t be subjugated to blowing leads left and right hoping their quarterback can lead them to victory. Nor should conservative play-calling by the Colts coaches should be a reason to let Luck to rally the troops when it really isn’t necessary. I don’t think it will be a consistent issue throughout the coming years but it is something to consider when analyzing the Colts performance as a team all sixty  minutes of the game.

All in all Colts fans, enjoy the ride. It’ll have it’s spills here and there but there will be more positives in the short and long term rather than negatives.


Frank McMahen is a Staff Writer at Naptown’s Finest. Follow Frank and Naptown’s Finest on Twitter.