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September 9, 2013

Luck TD’s a keeper

Bethea’s interception stops late Oakland drive to give Indy first-game victory

INDIANAPOLIS — Give the Indianapolis Colts some credit. Despite squandering an early 14-0 lead, Chuck Pagano’s ball club found a way to win yet another close game Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Quarterback Andrew Luck provided the game winner for the Colts, scoring on an impromptu 19-yard scramble through the middle of the Oakland Raiders defense with 5:20 remaining in the game.

The touchdown gave Indianapolis a 21-17 lead and plenty of time for the Raiders’ own running quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, to create some magic of his own.

Pryor just about did exactly that, leading Oakland on a hurry-up, 10-play drive from its own 20-yard line down to the Indianapolis 24.

It took an interception by safety Antoine Bethea with 25 seconds remaining to seal the deal for the Colts, who found a way to register their first National Football League season-opening win since 2009.

The victory was Indianapolis’ eighth straight home field victory dating back to last season and the eighth fourth-quarter comeback directed by Luck since the start of the 2012 season.

“Hats off to the Raiders,” Pagano said afterward.

 “We knew that they had a good football team, a talented football team. We knew their quarterback was a talented, talented guy and how important that it was going to be to contain him.

“[Oakland] did a great job and had a great plan. But congratulations to everybody in that [Colts] locker room. Our players, our coaches. They did a phenomenal job. Our players did an unbelievable job of just hanging tough.”

When the game first started, it appeared as if Indianapolis was primed for a blowout. The Colts scored on their first two offensive drives and made it look relatively easy in the process.

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne caught a 12-yard scoring pass from Luck with 2:47 remaining in the first quarter, culminating a 10-play, 89-yard drive, to give Pagano’s crew a 7-0 lead.

On their following possession, Indianapolis went 69 yards in eight plays, getting into the end zone on a nifty 20-yard pass from Luck to tight end Dwayne Allen with 10:47 left In the second quarter. Allen made a nice play on the ball, out-maneuvering the Raiders’ defender on a throw that had to be hurried a bit because of a strong Oakland pass rush.

Perhaps the quick start came too easy. Maybe the Colts lost their focus for a while. Whatever the case, Oakland came charging back.

Running back Darren McFadden’s 1-yard run with just under five minutes remaining in the quarter narrowed the margin to 14-7. A 38-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski late in the third quarter made it 14-10.

The capper came when Pryor wheeled and dealt his way through the Indianapolis defense on an 11-play, 44-yard possession.

The drive — which featured the Oakland signalcaller scrambling to avoid Colts defenders — culminated in a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Denarius Moore with 11:09 left in the game.

Pryor, a former Ohio State standout, was impressive in only his second NFL start. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown and was intercepted twice. He also gained 112 yards on 13 carries.

“It’s not fun watching Terrelle Pryor run around and do his thing,” Luck admitted later. “I’m sure for everybody else watching it’s pretty electric. What a great job he did.”

How impressed was the Colts quarterback? Very.

“I tell you Terrelle Pryor is a stud. He made some unbelievable plays. You probably saw [Indianapolis outside linebacker] Robert Mathis running a mile back and forth [chasing Pryor],” Luck said.

Oakland’s first offensive possession of the game ended when Colts cornerback Greg Toler came up with an interception. Bethea made sure that the Raiders’ final possession would have a similar conclusion.

After getting off to a quick start, Luck completed 18 of 23 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran six times for an additional 38 yards, including the game-winner.

“I went through my reads and as I was sort of stepping up, you sort of realize, ‘Hey man, there really is no one here,’” he said.

“They doubled Reggie [Wayne], so that means one more guy out of the box. Sometimes it just opens up like that. You can’t help but go. I wanted a first down if I took off. Then [wide receiver] Darrius [Heyward-Bey] did a great job of sort of coming out of his route and just pinning a guy, blocking his man in and led a nice lane into the end zone.”

Wayne had eight catches for 96 yards and a TD. Running back Vick Ballard added a team-high 63 yards rushing in 13 carries.

Safety LaRon Landry registered 15 total tackles (10 solo) against the Raiders in his first Indianapolis start. Bethea added 11 stops.  

“It was certainly good to be out there and it was certainly good when Antoine picked that ball off and went to a knee. Exactly as he was taught,” Pagano said. “Can’t tell you how excited I am for this organization and this football team and this city. I think they’re unbelievable.”

The Colts will take their 1-0 record into next Sunday’s home game with Miami. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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