A memorable Sunday in which the Indianapolis Colts celebrated several unprecedented achievements would not have been complete without the visitors scoring 21 fourth-quarter points for a 42-28 comeback victory over the Oakland Raiders.
The Colts (3-5) earned a happy trip home from California with a final surge as quarterback Andrew Luck threw a game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Jack Doyle and running back Marlon Mack capped a career day with two rushing touchdowns in the final 15 minutes.
The Raiders (1-6) were pointless in the final quarter and have been outscored 85-34 in the fourth quarter this season. And their one turnover enabled the Colts to put the game away as rookie linebacker Darius Leonard forced a Doug Martin fumble with a tomahawk-chop strip and Matthew Adams recovered. That set up Mack’s final score.
“Wow, what a game,” Colts first-year coach Frank Reich said. “What a great team effort, going toe-to-toe, on the road, a lot of positive things throughout the game.”
While the Raiders were coming off a bye, the Colts enter an off week with plenty of positives to reflect upon. Most notably, kicker Adam Vinatieri became the NFL’s all-time scoring leader by surpassing Morten Andersen (2,544) with a 25-yard field goal in the second quarter. Vinatieri, the league’s oldest player at 45, ended up with 10 points to push his career total to 2,550.
“I never thought I’d play this long and have the opportunity to be standing here talking about this right now,” Vinatieri said. “I think the best part today is less the record and more that we got the record on a win.”
He received the team’s game ball.
“We got to witness something special today,” Reich said of Vinatieri. “We saw the greatest kicker of all time break that record.”
Luck was also in awe of Vinatieri, who earlier this season broke Andersen’s NFL record for career field goals, which now stands at 573.
“I really don’t think we fully appreciate what just happened,” Luck said. “I get to tell my grandkids and kids I got to play with Adam Vinatieri. He’s the best ever.”
The Colts celebrated more than that. For the first time in NFL history, three different tight ends on the same team caught touchdown passes as Luck hooked up with Mo Alie-Cox, Eric Ebron and Doyle. Alie-Cox’s one-handed grab was his first pro TD.
The position production isn’t a fluke, either. Ebron leads all NFL tight ends with seven TD receptions, and four Colts tight ends have combined for 12 scoring receptions this season.
Luck has now thrown TD passes to 11 different pass catchers this season, a first in Colts history. He also wasn’t sacked for a third consecutive game, a stretch of 156 pass attempts, the longest of his seven-year career. It’s the first time the Colts have kept their quarterback clean in three consecutive games since 2009.
“That’s incredible performance by the offensive line,” Reich said.
Mack led a balanced rushing attack with a career-high 132 yards on 25 carries. That bettered the second-year pro’s previous best of 126 yards rushing last week.
The Colts rushed for 222 yards on 40 carries, the first time this franchise has amassed more than 200 yards rushing in back-to-back games in the same season since 1985. That’s the year after the team arrived in Indianapolis from Baltimore.
“A balance is key,” Luck said. “When you can run for over 200 yards as an offense and give up zero sacks, that’s awesome. I think that’s what we did last week as well (37-5 home win over Buffalo). The guys up front are doing a heck of a job.”
Although a final distinction doesn’t seem as noteworthy as the others, the Colts won a second consecutive game for the first time since 2016. That’s important for a rebuilding team which is two games behind the Houston Texans (5-3) in the AFC South Division.
For three quarters, the game was a shootout as two Pro Bowl passers, Luck and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, took turns taking apart overmatched defenses. The Colts jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but Carr threw TD passes to wide receiver Seth Roberts and tight end Jared Cook for a 14-10 lead. Carr pushed the Raiders ahead 21-13 with a 1-yard TD dive in the third quarter.
The Colts pulled even at 21 in the third quarter when Luck hit Ebron on a 20-yard scoring pass, then connected with wide receiver Chester Rogers for a two-point conversion pass.
Back came Carr, who threw his final scoring pass of six yards to wide receiver Brandon LaFell with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter.
“I’m tired of losing,” Carr said.
Carr was dazzling at times with 17 consecutive completions. He finished 21 of 28 for 244 yards with the three TDs and wasn’t intercepted nor sacked. But the Raiders didn’t score again.
“The Colts took control of the game offensively,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said, shaking his head. “They ran the ball repeatedly. They possessed the ball and made it tough on us.”
He took responsibility for another fourth-quarter collapse.
“I don’t think they ran out of gas,” Gruden said of his defense, which dropped to 31st in points allowed at 31.1 per game. “I just think defensively, we’ve got to take a long look at who we can get on the field to help us right now. We’re struggling.”
Luck drove the Colts 75 yards in 12 plays with Mack finishing it off on a 4-yard TD run. Vinatieri kicked the extra point for a 28-all tie.
After the Raiders went three and out, Luck needed just six plays to negotiate 57 yards, capped by a 10-yard scoring pass to Doyle. In his first game back after missing five with a hip injury, Doyle led the Colts with six receptions for 70 yards. He caught four of those passes for 52 yards on that deciding drive.
Any chance at a Raiders comeback quickly fizzled on their next offensive play as Leonard, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September, forced his third fumble of the year. The NFL tackle leader, whose 79 total stops were 13 more than the next player to begin the day, added nine more tackles in this game.
“A stop by the defense turned the trajectory of the game,” Luck said.
Martin’s lost fumble at the Raiders’ 27 with 5:16 remaining set up the Colts final score — and it was all Mack, five rushes for 27 yards with the last carry a 1-yard TD.
“They imposed their will today,” Gruden said. “They physically did a great job.”
The Raiders are at San Francisco on Thursday night. After a bye, the Colts have three consecutive home games against Jacksonville, Tennessee and Miami.
“We like where we are right now,” Reich said.