Analysis: Can't figure out these Colts? Well, join the club

The 5-5 Colts are perfectly unpredictable after Sunday's win.

After Adam Vinatieri came through again with the deciding field goal in the Indianapolis Colts’ 24-21 comeback win at Atlanta Sunday, holder Pat McAfee couldn’t resist lobbing a back-handed compliment at his ageless Fourth Down Army partner in crime.

“The guy is wearing Depends and knocking home game winners every week,” McAfee said of the 42-year-old kicker’s 26th career game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Anybody getting up there in years who has been watching every minute of this incredibly unpredictable team has probably crapped their pants more than once.

Forget the adult diapers. Anybody in need of a straight jacket?

It’s the second consecutive game Vinatieri has delivered with a fourth-quarter field goal. He also won one in overtime this season, and drilled another 50-yarder in an overtime loss at Carolina. 

The Colts have trailed in all but two games this season, so we’re used to fearing the worst, seeing it unfold, then wondering if this team will rally. Another win was by two points after the Colts stopped a Titans’ two-point conversion run in Tennessee. 

What qualifies as a breather for these guys is winning by a touchdown at Houston with an under-the-weather, 40-year-old, backup quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, who needed to visit a hospital three days before because of a disagreeable experience with a chicken burrito. Yeah, insert your own Depends joke.

After falling behind by 14 points twice Sunday, these imperfect Colts rallied true to unusual form. Or as head coach Chuck Pagano told his team, “Keep throwing haymakers.”

Colts inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson is often victimized in pass coverage. Not knocking the guy, just being honest. So it was nothing short of incredible to see him drop back into coverage and intercept a Matt Ryan pass then return it 6 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to tie the game at 21.

“DQ” admitted afterward the Falcons had run that play more than once. The first time they did, both Jackson and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman bit on it. Ryan obviously didn’t see Jackson this time.

The Colts had a season-high four takeaways at the Georgia Dome. They have 16 takeaways for the season opposite 22 giveaways. But Jackson’s pick-six was the third one for this defense. Safeties Dwight Lowery and Mike Adams have the others. They give up yards in bunches at times, but then somebody makes a play. Sometimes, anyway.

And because we never know what to expect from the Colts, didn’t it make sense that the game ended on a Hail Mary with tight end Coby Fleener playing defense? Fleener had three catches for 45 yards on offense, but his biggest grab was at the end when he leaped and intercepted Ryan’s final pass.

A tight end with an interception? Are you kidding me?

Anybody who has a solid read on this team, help a brother out. Seriously.

The Colts lose franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, but Hasselbeck is 3-0 as the best $3-million insurance policy ever purchased. When a reporter pointed out his three wins have been ugly, the entertaining Hasselbeck replied, “Thanks for that.”

Like it matters, huh? I’m all for being critical when it’s necessary, but a win is a win and this team was in need of another just to get to .500 and stay tied atop the AFC South Division with the Texans. Nobody need remind players or fans this much-maligned division won’t be a gimme as in the last two years.

“I think we just keep scratching and clawing and doing what we can,” Hasselbeck said.

The 17th-year pro admitted his interception on the second offensive play was on him. He had lobbied for the play to be called on the first series, but then over-thought what he saw. Fleener went one way, the football fluttered directly to the Falcons. Hasselbeck also had a bad interception later, but guess what, he had one fewer pick than Ryan. And the oldest Matt won.

Because the Colts kept scratching and clawing, they were able to endure against the fading Falcons, who had opened the season with five wins but have now lost four of five. NFL outlooks can sure change fast. Like in the span of a quarter or two.

When the Colts were down 14-0 in the second quarter, and again 21-7 after the Falcons drove for a touchdown on the opening series of the second half, I was starting to think about how this team would need to win five of their last six games to make the playoffs. Yeah, queue the infamous Jim Mora “Playoffs?!?!” rant.

Now, at 5-5, you look at the Colts’ schedule and see only one team left with a winning record, the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4). But no need to look too far ahead to that Heinz Field trip in two weeks. We all remember how bad last year’s 17-point loss turned out in the Steel City.

The Colts host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Don’t ask me what to expect from the home team. No clue. Anybody following my weekly predictions knows I’m 4-6 on Colts games when picking straight-up winners. Throw in the spread and — this is not a misprint — I’m a perfectly imperfect 0-10.

Most sportswriters would be ashamed to publicize such ignorance. I’ve been doing this for about two decades, so this gets mentioned to make a point, as well as to remind it’s why I never gamble because I’d be broke.

This streak shows just how unpredictable these guys have been. Expect them to win, they don’t against the Bills, Jets and Saints. Expect them to win and cover, they don’t against the Titans and Jaguars. Expect them to lose and fail to cover, they cover and win straight up against the Broncos, Texans and now the Falcons, and they cover in losing by a field goal in overtime at Carolina and by a touchdown to New England.

After 10 games, my only summation is don’t expect something to happen because it won’t.

During the course of one game, fans’ hearts flutter frequently and swear words are shared with the television or in person. Then when they sometimes pull these games out — you just never know — but when they do, you’re questioning everything without any level of sure-fire confidence in what happens next.

If nothing else, we know that if the Colts turn to “Mr. Clutch” to win a game, it’s won.

“Before every kick, I ask him if he’s ready,” McAfee said of Vinatieri. “Every other time except for when it’s a game winner, he goes, ‘Yeah, buddy.’ But when it’s a game winner and I turn back, he looks like just this soulless man back there, ready to just make it happen.”

Soulless? If would require selling your soul to the Devil to comprehend these Colts.

In the meantime, if Depends helps, go for it.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.


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