Adam Vinatieri always says kicking game-winning field goals never gets old.
And that’s a good thing for the Indianapolis Colts, who needed the NFL’s oldest player to boot a 27-yard field goal for a 16-13 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Vinatieri, 42, delivered the game-winning points after Jaguars kicker Jason Myers had missed a 53-yard field goal try in the final seconds of regulation and a 48-yard attempt in overtime. The kicker known as “Mr. Clutch,” who won two Super Bowls on last-second field goals with the New England Patriots, provided the 25th game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime of his 20-year NFL career. He also became the first player in NFL history to score 1,000 career points with two teams.
On a day when Colts quarterback Andrew Luck missed the first game of his career due to a shoulder injury, his team escaped with an ugly win to extend an AFC South Division winning streak to 15 games, tying the 1972-73 Miami Dolphins for the longest such streak in league history.
“It doesn’t matter if that’s your first or your 21st, it doesn’t really matter,” Vinatieri said. “I try to approach every kick, first quarter or overtime, the same way.”
The Jaguars (1-3), one week after allowing a franchise-worst point total in a 51-17 loss at New England, came within inches on both missed kicks of defeating their division rivals.
The Colts were that lucky.
Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the Colts’ 40-year-old insurance policy, did just enough to get the job done. He completed 30-of-47 passes for 282 yards with one touchdown. And after Myers’ second miss, Hasselbeck hit tight end Coby Fleener on a 28-yard pass to get the deciding drive going.
Hasselbeck actually rode over to the stadium with Fleener.
“D'Qwell Jackson called shotgun and rode over, too,” Hasselbeck said. “Coby was a little offended and I was like, ‘Alright, I will throw you a couple extra passes late in the fourth quarter.’ We said it jokingly. That wasn’t why, but that’s a true story.”
Hasselbeck, a 17-year veteran, was starting for the first time since 2012, but it was his 153rd career start. The Colts re-signed him to a one-year, $3-million contract in the offseason in case this scenario with Luck presented itself.
After the Fleener catch, two runs netted five yards before running back Frank Gore ripped off a 22-yard rush to the Jaguars’ 7 to set up Vinatieri’s heroics. He had made two other field goals from 54 and 32 yards as well as an extra point, to set Colts franchise records in field goals (218) and points (1,004).
“It was awesome to see Matt (Hasselbeck) go out there,” Vinatieri said. “He prepared like a guy that expected to get on the field and he did everything he needed to do to lead the team.”
Head coach Chuck Pagano said the team realized Sunday morning that Luck couldn’t play. The team had worked out its three-time Pro Bowl passer on Saturday and thought he was trending in the right direction, but Luck showed up sore at the stadium and was listed among the inactives. He had not missed a start in 51 regular-season games and six playoff games.
“Obviously we’re going to have to find ways, and we did today, to manufacture W’s with the state that we’re in from a health standpoint,” Pagano said. “I use grit a lot when I talk, but that’s what it usually comes down to.”
Pagano admitted he almost cost his team the win in the final seconds of regulation. Myers missed his first 48-yard attempt wide right, but the Colts coach had called a timeout just before the ball was snapped. That gave the Jaguars kicker a second chance, but he missed again wide right.
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, a ton of ‘Our Fathers,’ a lot of Hail Marys. You dumbass,” Pagano said of what he was thinking after Myers’ first miss didn’t count. “Yeah, that’s what was going through my mind, I’m sure most of my family’s as well. I’m waiting to hear it from them. You guys think you’re tough. Just wait until the car ride home.”
The defensive game saw the Jaguars take a 13-10 halftime lead after Myers closed the opening half with a 32-yard field goal. The only second-half points were a Vinatieri 32-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
“Grit, character and I’m proud of my team,” outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. “I don’t care how you get it. You get a win in this league, we’ll take it.”
Just like that, the Colts are back atop the AFC South entering a short week with a Thursday game at Houston, which lost 48-21 at Atlanta to drop to 1-3.
“We don’t have much time,” Pagano said. “There is no 24-hour rule in effect on this one. We’ve got to go to work.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.