The Indianapolis Colts used their tag-team
quarterbacks perfectly Sunday.
Josh Freeman ran the regular offense, Ryan Lindley the two-minute
Together, they played well enough to win. They just couldn’t get
the Colts into the playoffs by themselves.
Recently signed Freeman and Lindley each threw one first-half
touchdown pass, and a third-quarter defensive score gave Indy all
the scoring it needed to beat Tennessee 30-24. But the Colts needed
a lot more than a win to save their season – and perhaps their
They needed a Houston loss and seven other games to go exactly
right. When Houston beat Jacksonville 30-6, the Colts’ fate was
Now the Colts play a different kind of waiting game.
After months of speculation about coach Chuck Pagano’s future, team
owner Jim Irsay will decide whether to bring his coach back.
Pagano is 41-23 in four seasons with the Colts, made the playoffs
each of his first three years, and won division titles in 2013 and
2014. Indy reached last season’s AFC championship game.
Pagano also captivated the football world as he battled leukemia
during the 2012 season.
But his contract is expiring.
He may have done his most creative coaching the last two weeks when
Indy (8-8) needed four quarterbacks to win both times.
This week was unlike anything Pagano had experienced. With his top
three quarterbacks injured, the Colts signed Freeman and Lindley on
Tuesday, immediately split up the duties and then plugged them into
Freeman finished 15 of 28 with 149 yards with one touchdown and one
interception. Lindley was 6 of 10 for 58 yards in two cameos and
threw an 18-yard TD pass with 13 seconds left in the first half for
a 20-14 lead it never relinquished.
For Tennessee (3-13), things were even tougher as Titans secured
the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger left in the third quarter with a
forearm injury after Jerrell Freeman picked off a screen pass and
returned it 23 yards to make it 27-14. Mettenberger, 0-10 as a
starter, was 5 of 13 for 38 yards with no touchdowns, ran for one
TD and threw an interception.
Alex Tanney, who spent most of the season on Indy’s practice squad,
finished the game and threw a TD pass.
Delanie Walker caught nine passes for 94 yards and became the first
tight end in Titans history to top the 1,000-yard mark, and the
ninth tight end in NFL history to catch at least 90 passes in a
Tennessee finished its season with four straight losses and its
ninth in a row to Indianapolis.
The biggest surprise was how well Josh Freeman played after
spending more than two years out of the league. He led the Colts to
a 49-yard field goal on their opening drive and hooked up with Coby
Fleener on a 57-yard TD pass for a 10-7 lead.
Then, trailing 14-13, Lindley entered. He took the Colts right
downfield, too, finding Andre Johnson, who stretched the ball
across the goal line to give Indy a 20-14 halftime lead.
Da’Norris Searcy’s interception set up Mettenberger’s 5-yard
first-quarter TD run. Tennessee made it 14-10 when David Cobb
scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal.