Andrew Luck rallies Indianapolis past Green Bay, 30-27
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INDIANAPOLIS — All Chuck Pagano asked the Indianapolis Colts to do was focus on football.
Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne did that — and a little more to honor their ailing coach.
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 and stun Green Bay, 30-27, on perhaps the most emotional day in Lucas Oil Stadium history.
‘‘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.’’
It’s a day nobody in Indy or around the league will soon forget.
Interim coach Bruce Arians acknowledged he was fighting back tears when he spoke to reporters. From the sounds of it, so were Luck and Wayne.
The sometimes emotional team owner, Jim Irsay, sniffled as he spoke inside a silent locker room before dashing off to the hospital where Pagano is undergoing treatment for leukemia. He wanted to personally deliver the game ball to Pagano, who celebrated his 52d birthday Tuesday.
Pagano made it perfectly clear Friday, in an emotional e-mail to players and coaches, that he didn’t want guys playing for him; he simply wanted the Colts (2-2) to play for themselves and match last season’s victory total.
Turns out the players wanted this one even more for Pagano than he wanted it for them.
‘‘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.”
Luck was 31 of 55 with two touchdowns and one interception, and ran for a TD, too.
Wayne finished with 13 catches for 212 yards — the second-best total in team history.
Green Bay (2-3) had a chance to force overtime with a 51-yard field goal. But Mason Crosby’s attempt went left with three seconds to go, setting off an emotional celebration on the Colts sideline.
Aaron Rodgers threw an 8-yard TD pass to James Jones to give the Packers a 27-22 lead with 4:30 to go.
All Green Bay had to do was stop Luck one more time to clinch it.
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 another third-down conversion before spotting Wayne for the go-ahead score.