The Indianapolis Colts led the Denver Broncos 21-13 in the fourth quarter of the AFC Divisional Round round game. Denver just punted the ball back to the Colts with 12:20 left in the game and down one score. The Colts were trying to hang on to the upset win, and they desperately needed to take some time off the clock and get points to make it a two score game.
And that's when the Colts' offense put together what was arguably their best drive of the season. Taking over possession with 12:20 left in the game and at their own 34 yard line, the Colts managed a 13-play, 54-yard drive that took 8:14 off the clock and ended in an Adam Vinatieri 30-yard field goal, putting the Colts up by two scores and giving the ball back to the Broncos with just 4:06 remaining in the game. In essence, the drive won the game for the Colts.
"I mean, we took over," head coach Chuck Pagano said of the drive on Monday. "You're going to advance, you're going to move on if you're able to do that in January playing on the road in hostile environments. That was a gritty, gritty drive, if you will. That was huge. That was huge. You go off what we learned Week 2. We're in a same, similar situation. We're already in field goal range and you have an unfortunate turnover and a no call, so to speak, and you end up losing a game. Now, this many weeks later, you're in the same scenario. You're up one score. You're trying to make it a two-score game. You take time off the clock. You take care of the football. You kick the field goal. You go up two scores, big difference."
Running back Daniel "Boom" Herron, who received seven carries on the drive, was asked about the 8:14 drive. "Crazy, right?" Boom said. "Yeah, it was a great drive. It took a lot of time off the clock, and we were able to finish the game."
All season long, Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton have been talking about time of possession and controlling the football. In most instances, the time of possession isn't a great indicator of success. But on Sunday, when the Colts desperately needed to run some time off the clock to keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines, the Colts did just that, mounting a drive that lasted over eight minutes long and ended in points to make it a two score game.
"No bigger drive than that drive there," Pagano said. And he's right: it wasn't just the biggest drive of the game, it might have been the biggest drive of the season, as that was the drive that essentially punched the Colts' ticket to the AFC Championship game.