Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
The Colts' 27-23 victory over the Titans on Sunday consisted of several key plays, but perhaps none was as big as Pat McAfee's third quarter punt that pinned Tennessee at their own one yard line - and set up a huge score for Indianapolis.
The win was ugly and rookie quarterback played his worst game as a pro. But the Colts’ defense stepped it up in the second half and led the Colts to a victory. The play that changed the game, however, has been buried behind the Colts’ defensive touchdown in the third quarter.
The Colts faced a 4th and 4 at their own 47 yard line with 5:38 left in the third quarter. On third down Andrew Luck avoided the sack (as he had to do the entire game) and threw to tight end Dwayne Allen at the Titans 48, but Allen, between two defenders, couldn’t pull it in. The Colts, trailing 20-14, were forced to punt.
On came punter Pat McAfee, looking to pin the Titans deep in their own territory. Long snapper Matt Overton made a good snap and McAfee launched a punt high and long. The Tennessee returner let the ball go over his head. The ball was perfectly placed; a coffin corner that went out of bounds at the one yard line. The Titans wanted a touchback, but instead it was a 52-yard punt by the fan-favorite and should-be pro bowler Pat McAfee. On the day, McAfee punted four times (with the 52-yard coffin corner being the last one) and averaged 53.3 yards per punt, with 2 downed inside the 20 yard line.
However, the coffin corner punt has been overshadowed by the play it set up. On the very next play, the Titans had a 1st and 10 from the 1 yard line. Quarterback Jake Locker made a quick drop back and threw a comeback route to Nate Washington. But the terrible throw didn’t have a chance. Indianapolis corner Cassius Vaughn, who stepped up big time yesterday, was in front of Washington immediately and took it in 3 yards for the score. The Colts led 21-20, and while that would not be the last lead change of the day, it was the one that was the biggest one. The Colts took their first lead of the game and, after another Andrew Luck game winning drive in the fourth quarter, were victorious for the ninth time this year. The Colts also improved their record to 8-1 this year in one possession games.
We could talk about the touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne and Andrew Luck having Peyton-like play action. We could talk about the defensive touchdown by Cassius Vaughn, or the great kicking by Adam Vinatieri. We could talk about the great gutsy play call by Bruce Arians to seal the game, but perhaps the biggest play of the game and the biggest turning point came on Pat McAfee’s fourth punt. It not only pinned the Titans deep but set the Colts up for the touchdown that got them their first lead of the ball game. It was another comeback by these Colts, who are doing something this year that is truly special. There is no explanation for it, really. This isn’t a playoff team – talent-wise, that is. So many people try to explain the reason for the Colts’ winning that they miss the incredibleness of it. This is a team that just a year ago was 2-14 and underwent a ton of change this offseason.
One player who has been around for a few years in Indianapolis, however, is McAfee. And this year, he deserves to be in the pro bowl. He has averaged 49 yards per punt, good for 5th in the league. He has pinned 18 out of 56 punts inside the 20 yard line (32%) and 6 more for touchbacks (11%). Just this past week he was also named one of the permanent captains for the 2012 Colts, serving as the special teams captain alongside Joe Lefeged.
McAfee said of the coffin corner punt on Sunday:
"They always talk about visualization and all that stuff, like what golfers do. I don't really do that much, but I sat back there waiting for the snap and I thought, 'Hey, if I hit this out at the 1, it would be pretty sick. And it happened."
Not only did it happen, but it came at just the right time for the Colts. It was the play that changed the course of the game. Yeah, there were other good ones that were huge (including the play right after the punt), but Pat McAfee and the special teams came up big when it counted. And the Colts, unbelievably, are 9-4.