INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano provided the inspiration, then Andrew Luck delivered a record-setting performance in leading the surprising Indianapolis Colts past the Miami Dolphins, 23-20.
Luck broke the NFL’s single-game rookie record by throwing for 433 yards, breaking Cam Newton’s previous mark of 422 yards set last season. He was 30 of 48 with two touchdowns on a day that Indianapolis coach Pagano returned to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since being diagnosed with leukemia.
Picked at the beginning of the season by many to be among the NFL’s weakest teams, the rebuilding Colts are now in the playoff conversation at 5-3 and have won their past three games.
Surrounded by his players, the ailing coach Pagano offered even more encouragement.
“I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision, and you weren’t living in circumstances,” Pagano said Sunday with interim coach Bruce Arians at his side. “You know where they had us in the beginning, every last one of them. But you refused to live in circumstances and you decided consciously as a team and as a family to live in a vision, and that’s why you bring things home like what you bring home today. That’s why you’re already champions and well on your way.”
Luck wasn’t too concerned that he had just broken Cam Newton’s year-old record for yards passing in a game by a rookie or even that his team had another victory. He just wanted to live up to the message from his coach, who has been receiving treatment for leukemia since being diagnosed Sept. 26.
“His presence is felt every day in the facility,” Luck said. “But to see him in the flesh, in the locker room, to hear him speak I think gave all the guys a boost.”
Beside breaking Newton’s record, Luck also tied another NFL record by becoming the second rookie quarterback to produce four 300-yard games in a season. The other: Peyton Manning, the quarterback he replaced.
Reggie Wayne hauled in a high 9-yard pass with an incredible toe-tap on the end line for a score, and rookie T.Y. Hilton made a leaping 36-yard touchdown catch that Luck threw into double coverage.
The matchup between two of this season’s rookie quarterbacks and two of this season’s biggest surprise teams was every bit as good as advertised.
There was only one first-half punt. The teams combined for 881 total yards without any turnovers, and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, who was limited in practice all week and considered questionable, was 22 of 38 for 290 yards with one TD.
“We knew we’d have to disrupt him (Luck) a little bit. But we weren’t detailed enough, we weren’t disciplined enough on our rush,” Miami coach Joe Philbin said. “When you have the No. 1 defense on third down, and when a team converts 69 percent of the time on third down, it’s a different feel.”
Indy’s defense stopped the Dolphins on their final two possessions and the win was sealed with Vick Ballard’s 19-yard run with under a minute remaining.
But it was Luck’s performance that had his teammates buzzing on Sunday.
“The kid, he continues to amaze,” Wayne said. “Hopefully I can help, you know, add on to his legacy that he’s about to build.”