By George Bremer CNHI News Service
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — The scoreboard had to be a lie.
Even more than two hours after Sunday’s game at Lucas Oil Stadium, the numbers casting off a digital glow seemed to be inexplicable.
Had the Indianapolis Colts (4-1) really scored a 34-28 victory in a wild and wacky shootout against the previously undefeated Seattle Seahawks (4-1)? And, if so, how?
A big part of the answer stood in a tan suit with a beard showing a few days’ growth outlining his still youthful face. Against a defensive secondary widely regarded as the best in the NFL, Andrew Luck went 11-of-16 for 132 yards in the second half — lowering the boom on Seattle’s famed “Legion of Boom.”
“Against that team? Extremely difficult,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said, assessing another clutch performance from his quarterback. “But, again, that’s Andrew being Andrew. Again, we’re very lucky, no pun intended, to have him.”
Luck finished 16-of-29 for 229 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions overall. He posted a 104.0 quarterback rating against a Seattle team that had limited opposing passers to a league-low 60.7 rating through the first two games.
He avoided the big mistakes that doomed Houston’s Matt Schaub in an overtime loss a week ago, and he routinely found second-year wide receiver T.Y. Hilton for big plays. The 2012 third-round pick out of Florida International caught five passes for a career-high 140 yards and both of Luck’s touchdowns.
The first score was arguably the most important.
Seattle scored on its first two drives while Indianapolis went three-and-out, then the Seahawks blocked a punt and nearly recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. The play was ultimately ruled a safety, and the Colts were in a 12-0 hole less than five minutes into the game.
Luck answered quickly.
After Seattle punted from the Colts’ 48-yard line, Trent Richardson broke through for 2 yards on third-and-1 to give Indianapolis its intial first down of the game.
On the next snap, Luck saw Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman sitting on the out route against Hilton. The receiver released deep and took off down the sideline. Luck hit him in stride, and Hilton made a quick juke on safety Earl Thomas before gliding into the end zone for a 73-yard score.
“When T.Y. is running fast, not many guys can catch him,” Luck said. “He had some space. The line did a great job protecting. In those situations, give him a ball that he doesn’t have to slow down for and see what happens. When he gets the ball in his hands, good things happen. It turns into a punt return. When he starts running, good things happen.”
The touchdown seemed to spark the Colts, and they took the lead for the first time early in the second quarter. Lawrence Guy blocked a 48-yard field goal attempt, and Delano Howell raced with the loose ball 61 yards for a touchdown and a 14-12 lead.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson — who finished 15-of-31 for 210 yards with two scores and one interception and also rushed 13 times for 102 yards — coolly answered with a 12-play, 82-yard scoring drive. His 28-yard pass to a diving Jermaine Kearse gave the Seahawks a 19-14 lead.
Adam Vinatieri added a 41-yard field goal with 58 seconds left in the half, and Steven Hauschka hit a pair of field goals to start the third quarter and put the Seahawks in front 25-17.
That’s when Luck and Hilton struck again, with the quarterback lobbing a beautiful 29-yard touchdown pass into the end zone to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. A 2-point conversion pass failed, and the Colts still trailed 25-23.
Hauschka added another field goal to push the Seahawks lead back out to 28-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
On the game-determining drive, Luck completed all three of his third-down conversions. The first was aided by a pass interference call against Sherman, the second was a 12-yard completion to Hilton and the last was a 3-yard pass to Reggie Wayne that was originally ruled short and overturned on review.
Luck hit Wayne again for 19 yards on the next play, setting up a first-and-goal at the Seattle 3. Donald Brown took the football the rest of the way for the go-ahead score.
Luck completed a 2-point conversion pass across his body to Wayne in the middle of the end zone for a 31-28 lead, and Vinatieri added a 49-yard field goal with 1:55 left for the final margin.
Wilson had one final chance to pull out the comeback win. But he was hit hard by Jerrell Freeman on a fourth-and-15 attempt from his own 37-yard line, and the pass was intercepted by Darius Butler to seal the win with 1:23 to play.