Andrew Luck and Donnie Avery got together on a 14-yard score on the final play of the game as the Indianapolis Colts shocked the Detroit Lions, 35-33, at Ford Field on Sunday.
The Colts (8-4) were down by 12 points late in the game, but went on two straight scoring drives that Luck capped with touchdown passes to help the team win for a sixth time in the past seven games.
Luck finished the game 24-for-54 for 391 yards with four touchdown passes and three interceptions, while also totaling 33 rushing yards on three carries. Avery caught two of the scores, while LaVon Brazill and Coby Fleener each caught a touchdown pass in the win.
"Some teams find a way to win, others don't," said Indianapolis interim head coach Bruce Arians. "Today our guys did and I couldn't be prouder of them. This was a bug team win and everyone took part in it. This was a big win on the road against a quality opponent."
Detroit's Calvin Johnson continued his fantastic run with 13 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown. The NFC Offensive Player of the Month for November, Johnson had a career-high for catches in the game and tied an NFL record with his fifth straight game of at least 125 receiving yards.
On the season, he has an NFL-leading 1,428 yards and is 420 yards from the league record set by Jerry Rice in 1995.
Matthew Stafford passed for 313 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 27-of-46 attempts, while Brandon Pettigrew also caught a touchdown pass for the Lions (4-8), who have dropped their past four games to hurt their chances of consecutive playoff appearances.
"We did a poor job protecting the end zone and we did a worse job defending the quarterback," said Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. "But that wasn't the only thing the lost the game for us, we had other chances to stop them and we just didn't get anything done. We were up two scores, this is inexcusable."
Detroit had just picked off Luck for a third time with 6:40 to play, but didn't go anywhere and punted the ball back to the Colts with 4:02 to play.
Starting at his own 15, Luck scrambled for eight yards on a fourth down play that saw the team get another 15 yards on a horse collar tackle penalty. Four plays later, Luck avoided pressure in the pocket and went deep for Brazill, who came down with the 42-yard score to make it a 33-28 game with 2:39 to play.
The Colts held Detroit and forced a punt to get the ball back at their own 25 with 1:07 left in the game. Luck went nine yards on the first snap then found Reggie Wayne for 26 yards. Another Luck scramble moved the ball 16 yards and his 10-yard toss to Dwayne Allen got the ball to the Detroit 14 with 18 seconds to play.
Three straight incompletions saw the team down to one snap with three seconds on the clock. Luck stepped up in the pocket and made a short toss just before crossing the line of scrimmage to Avery, who ran in for the winning score with no time showing on the clock.
"We seemed to get stalled there and it was tough to sit back there and throw it when they were playing those zones," said Luck. "I figured I'd buy us some time and run around. I didn't want to throw it not in the end zone for fear that he would get tackled and we'd run out of time, but I took a calculated risk and it worked this time."
After each team had a touch to start the game, Detroit got the ball back at its own 42 and a 14-yard catch by Johnson got the team down to the Colts' 36. The team only managed seven more yards, and a Jason Hanson 48-yard field goal made it a 3-0 game with 8:49 to play in the first.
The Colts, though, answered just over two minutes later to take the lead with a 60-yard catch-and-run from T.Y. Hilton getting the ball down to the Detroit 16. Three plays later, from the 17, Luck found Avery over the middle and he raced in for a score and a 7-3 lead.
Detroit came right back with a touchdown of its own. On a first down at his own 32, Stafford lofted the ball down the right sideline where Tony Scheffler made the catch and dragged the right foot for a 39-yard play. Five plays later, Pettigrew made a leaping catch in the end zone for a 16-yard score and a 10-7 lead with 1:48 left in the first.
The Colts went three-and-out on their next touch as Detroit went to work at its own 25. On a first down just before midfield, Stafford went down the right sideline and Johnson came up with the one-handed catch for 32 yards down to the Indianapolis 6-yard line, Two plays later, Mikel Leshoure took it in up the middle for a 17-7 lead with 11:27 to play in the first half.
Indianapolis got a 40-yard catch on a screen by Allen on the first play of its ensuing drive to get the ball to the Detroit 40. Four plays later, Luck threw the ball down the left sideline where Fleener came up with a leaping catch near the goal line for his first career touchdown on a 26-yard play to make it a 17-14 game with 9:47 left in the half.
Detroit then went three-and-out, but Luck was picked by Drayton Florence, who took the ball down to the Colts' 10, but an illegal block on the return brought it back 10 yards. The Colts' defense held, and a 33-yard field goal from Hanson made it a 20-14 game.
The Colts again had to punt and three straight completions by Stafford moved the ball 26 yards. The drive stalled at the 33, and a 52-yard field goal from Hanson gave the Lions a 23-14 advantage with 3:46 left in the half.
Luck got his team near midfield, but was picked off by Don Carey. The Lions then made it to the Colts' 41, but Robert Mathis came up with his first career interception to kill the short possession.
The Colts started the second half with the ball and quickly got into scoring position on a 42-yard catch by Avery. Four plays later, Vick Ballard took a handoff on a draw through the left side and broke a couple of tackles on his way to an 11-yard score, the first rushing touchdown of his career, to make it a 23-21 game less than three minutes in.
Each team then punted twice, but the Lions gave themselves some breathing space after starting with the ball at their own 42. On the sixth play of the drive from the Indianapolis 46, Stafford rolled out to the right to avoid the rush and went deep for Johnson, who made the catch near the goal line and rolled in for a 30-21 lead with just two seconds left in the third quarter.
"You show up every Sunday expecting to win and we played a lot of parts of this game well enough to do that," said Stafford. "But for one reason or another, we didn't win today."
Detroit added to its lead on its second possession of the fourth quarter as a 67-yard run up the middle on a draw play by Joique Bell led to a 31-yard field goal by Hanson for a 33-21 advantage with 8:41 left in the game.
Indianapolis went to the no huddle and got into Detroit territory, but Luck was picked off for a third time in the game as Carey came down with his second interception in the contest.
Hilton's 60-yard catch was the longest passing play of the season for Indianapolis ... Colts linebacker Justin Hickman left the game with a hamstring injury while tackle Joe Reitz left in the first quarter with a possible concussion ... Bell's 67-yard run was a career-high ... Detroit wide receiver Ryan Broyles left the game with a knee injury ... The Colts, who improved to 3-3 on the road this season, host Tennessee next Sunday ... Detroit plays its next two games on the road with a matchup in Green Bay next Sunday ... The Colts have won six of the last eight games against the Lions ... All eight of Detroit's losses this season have come by 10 points or less.