Game ball. The outside linebacker’s reward for two sacks, the latter possibly the most important play in a wildly entertaining shootout.
The Redskins were trying to fight back, down 28-17 midway through the third quarter. Head coach Jay Gruden gambled on fourth-and-1 at their own 41. But running back Alfred Morris didn’t get out on Walden, who in an instant was on top of quarterback Colt McCoy.
Ball loose. Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson scooped it up and scooted 35 yards for a touchdown.
“You're praying for that,” Walden said. “Those are what we call lay-ups. You just hope you don’t miss it.”
Jackson didn’t think he could get his hands on the ball. Then it bounced directly to him.
“When I got it, I was running to that end zone, determined to get there,” Jackson said. “Heck of a play by Erik.”
Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said he would have needled Jackson if an offensive lineman stopped the linebacker from scooping and scoring.
“If he would have got on me in that regard, you know what? It would have been bad blocking for me not to get there,” Jackson said with a smile.
The Colts had six sacks and administered constant punishment to McCoy, battered but resilient in a 392-yard, three-TD day.
But the quarterback on the other side was a bit better. Andrew Luck spread it around with a career-high five touchdown passes. Two went to Stanford teammate Coby Fleener (who dropped a third). Two went to rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief. Another went to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.
Moncrief also cradled a game ball in his right arm as he departed the locker room. It was his first, befitting the rookie’s first two-score NFL game. His first TD covered 48 yards in the third quarter, points that came at a key time after the Redskins had closed to 21-17. His second TD covered 79 yards and finished the scoring.
“Andrew Luck is incredible,” Moncrief said. “He makes those plays when he’s getting pressure, coming out of the box, throwing on the run, and the ball is still perfect.”
The rookie said he would get Luck to sign his game ball.
“Oh, I got to. Yes, sir,” Moncrief said.
And what of Luck, who needed to complete just 19 passes for 370 yards, whose offense ran just five plays but scored two touchdowns in the third quarter, who consistently downplays anything positive he does? And, oh by the way, his 10th 300-yard game this season is a franchise record. Not that he knows, nor cares.
True to form, he spoke of others. So others had to speak volumes for him.
“That’s incredible,” Hilton said, using Moncrief’s adjective, “the throws (Luck) was making, finding guys that were open, that goes to him. You can’t just double me or Reg (Wayne). We’ve got other guys who can make plays. He proved that today by hurting them deep.”
Fleener turned a short pass into a big play for a 73-yard touchdown to make it 42-24 in the third quarter. Moncrief sped in at the last moment to make a block to get the tight end into the end zone. What of Luck's play this day?
“No big deal on that,” Fleener said of the five TD passes. “That’s something we see on a regular basis with Andrew. We’re kind of numb to it. You guys see it only once a week and it seems spectacular, but we kind of expect awesome things from Andrew.”
Rest assured, Luck received a game ball, too.
As Fleener walked out of the locker room, he said of his quarterback, “At some point, what does he do with all of ’em?”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.