INDIANAPOLIS -- On one play and on one throw on the final drive Sunday, Andrew Luck was vintage Andrew Luck, showing his ability to make something out of nothing to keep the Indianapolis Colts' playoff hopes alive.
There aren't many quarterbacks in the NFL who can make the play Luck made against Miami.
Drop back in the pocket to pass. Step up and duck to elude two rushers. Stumble twice with the ball tucked on his left side. Gather himself. Put the ball back in his right hand, keeping his eyes down the field and spotting a wide-open Chester Rogers for a 34-yard completion to put the Colts in range for the winning field goal.
Luck did it with the game and, more importantly, the season at stake for the Colts. This wasn't 2015 or 2016 Andrew Luck leading the Colts to the come-from-behind 27-24 victory against the Miami Dolphins. This was the 2012-14 Luck, using his strength, intelligence and will to win out there -- even if it took some improvising by going back to the playground to get the job done.
"That's a bad boy right there," Colts linebacker Najee Goode said as he made his way out the locker room. "He never quits on a play."
Indianapolis will need that kind of resilience to stay in the playoff race. If Sunday was any indication, Luck and the Colts are up for that challenge after surviving an ugly game to pull out the victory, something they failed to do earlier in the season.
"We went through some things [earlier in the season]," Colts coach Frank Reich said. "We didn't make some of those plays as a team. I just feel like we've come so far to all make the plays. Now, Andrew is directing the ship, and he's the one pulling the trigger, but it was everybody in that. That's what you expect from Andrew and from our offense."
The Colts are in a territory they haven't seen in more than four years. Their five-game winning streak ties their best stretch since winning five in row early in the 2014 season. They have a winning record (6-5) for the first time since November 2015. And they're right in the thick of things in the AFC playoff race. Baltimore has an identical 6-5 record as the Colts, but the Ravens are currently the sixth seed because they have a better conference record than Indianapolis.
"For us, we control our own destiny," Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton said. "We put together a string of runs. We're playing pretty good."
The Colts were on the brink of losing control of things Sunday when they trailed by 10 points early in the fourth quarter before Luck led the comeback. The punt team was on the sideline ready to take the field when the ball was snapped on the third-and-9 play from the Colts' 43.
It was a little bit of an "Oh s---" moment in Luck's words, because he was a "bit confused" since it was only the second time all season the Dolphins set up in that defensive alignment according to the quarterback. The thought of running never crossed Luck's mind. His thought was to throw a pass to try to extend the drive as long as he could keep his balance. Rogers wasn't even one of the top three reads on the play. You might as well have called him an extra on the play. But Luck's ability to go through all his reads allowed him to find Rogers open.
"We knew he was going to make a great play," Colts linebacker Anthony Walker said. "That's what he does. When the ball is in 12's hands, you always have a shot. It did look like he was going to stumble and fall, but people don't see the ankle and balance work that he does on Thursday or Friday afternoon. That's the little stuff that he does that helps make him great."
That completion was the final pass attempt of the day for Luck, as he finished 30-of-37 for 343 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. As Luck made his way to the locker room, he did so having led the Colts to their 20th game-winning drive after trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime since entering the NFL in 2012. Sunday was the first time since Week 3 of the 2015 season that the Colts overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to win a game.
Sunday was also the type of game the Colts didn't know how to win early in the season. A game that saw them commit three turnovers, miss a field goal and have a punt blocked. But these are no longer the Colts from September or early October.
"You've got to learn how to find a way when it's not easy and when it doesn't seem to be your night," Luck said. "We certainly have things to clean up. I certainly have things to clean up. That won't get lost in the fact that we won. We're happy. We're excited. We'll never apologize for a win, but we've got to improve. That's the beauty of this game. We'll keep the same mindset, and we'll get back to work."