The first re-signing of the free agency period this offseason by the Colts was an inauspicious one, as they signed quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to a one-year, $3 million contract to return as Andrew Luck's backup. He was the emergency plan in case the worst-case scenario happened and Luck was injured, but considering the fact that Luck had never missed a start in his career entering the season, that seemed unlikely to happen.
Then, in the preseason, Hasselbeck struggled. It was a concern, yes, but at the same time everyone realized that, if Luck went out and Hasselbeck had to play, the Colts were in trouble no matter what. After a 1-2 start, that worst case scenario was realized: Luck was hurt, and he would miss the first game of his career. That meant that it was Matt Hasselbeck time, with the 40-year old quarterback making his first start since 2012. The Colts were in trouble - unless his supporting cast could step up.
That didn't happen. The Colts rushed for just 60 yards on 24 carries, averaging 2.5 yards per rush, and their running backs fumbled twice. The receivers dropped several passes, while Andre Johnson again was held without a catch. The defense, at times, was picked apart by Blake Bortles. It was an all-around ugly game - but one of the positives was the play of Matt Hasselbeck.
He wasn't great, but he was absolutely good enough. He completed 30 of 47 passes (63.8%) for 282 yards (6 yards per attempt) and a touchdown without turning the football over, good for a passer rating of 87.4. He even made some Andrew Luck-like plays, such as his touchdown throw to Coby Fleener in which he threw on the run while rolling out to his right or his dump-off flip pass to Frank Gore as he was being pulled down for a sack. And he stepped up big on some third downs, completing 8 of 14 passes on third down for 102 yards, converting seven third down opportunities (four of which were on 3rd and 8 or more yards to go). He did absolutely everything you would expect from a backup quarterback, and then perhaps a bit some.
"Matt did a great job obviously," head coach Chuck Pagano said after the game. "I'm very, very proud of Matt and what he did. I think it was his 153rd start in the National Football League. The guy is a true pro and a winner and I'm really glad we got him on our football team."
With inconsistent supporting help, Hasselbeck and the Colts offense didn't blow anyone away. It was the fewest points that the Colts scored in a win since week one of the 2009 season, a 14-12 victory over the Jaguars. And it took the Colts overtime to put up 16 points and win, with Adam Vinatieri scoring ten of those points. So it wasn't some amazing offensive performance and was instead a rather dismal one for the Colts offense. But what we saw today was that Matt Hasselbeck is capable of stepping in and running this Colts offense.
That's not to say that the Colts don't need Andrew Luck back - they do. The Colts today looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL. But Hasselbeck stepped up, did what the Colts needed him to do, and the team made just a few more plays than the Jaguars did to get a win. It was a very ugly game, but getting a win without Andrew Luck is a notable accomplishment no matter what. And they wouldn't have done that without the efforts of his backup, Matt Hasselbeck.
"He won the game," tight end Coby Fleener said, who contributed with a career-high nine-catches for 83 yards and a score today. "I would say [he played] exceptional."