INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts and their fans were ready to celebrate Sunday. Blaine Gabbert ruined those plans with one long play.
Just moments after the Colts had taken a late lead on an Adam Vinatieri field goal, the Jacksonville quarterback hooked up with Cecil Shorts III on an 80-yard TD pass to beat the Colts 22-17 — the first fourth-quarter comeback of Gabbert's NFL career and the first win for Mike Mularkey as Jags coach.
"We got a good look. We checked to a play where we knew we could get the ball down the field," Gabbert said. "It's nice to feel a little success on Sunday."
Perhaps no team needed a win Sunday worse than the Jags (1-2), who managed only 117 yards in total offense a week earlier and appeared in grave danger of dropping to 0-3 when Vinatieri made that 37-yard field goal with 56 seconds to go.
Fans at Lucas Oil Stadium responded by standing and roaring, clearly expecting the confetti to shoot into the crowd at the final gun.
But the Colts' defense couldn't protect their 17-16 lead for even one play.
Instead, Shorts ran a short crossing route right in front of one of his teammates, and when Colts backup safety Sergio Brown stepped up to cover the speedster, Gabbert pounced on the mistake, hitting Shorts in stride and without a single defender behind him. All Shorts had to do was sprint to the end zone and avoid a potential game-saving tackle by Cassius Vaughn as he dived in for the touchdown.
The crowd sat in stunned silence as a replay review confirmed the call on the field.
It still wasn't over.
Andrew Luck got the ball back at his own 37 with 35 seconds to go and after a 36-yard completion, the Colts were at the Jags' 26. His first chance to win the game was thwarted when Luck got hit just as he started to throw and the ball fluttered incomplete. On the final play, he threw the ball to Reggie Wayne in the end zone but that was broken up by cornerback Aaron Ross, ending one of the more bizarre games ever played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Just a typical NFL finish: up and down, up and down, up and down emotionally," Mularkey said.
And in shocking fashion.
The Jags had relied almost exclusively on Maurice Jones-Drew to dig them out from a 14-3 halftime deficit, and Gabbert managed to throw only three completions in the second half before jogging onto the field for that final play.
Somehow, though, Gabbert took a confident message into the huddle.
"I told the guys going out onto the field, 'We're going to win. Right here, right now,'" Gabbert said.
He and Shorts made sure of it.
For the Colts, it was a stunning turnabout.