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Colts already have comeback in their DNA

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

On January 3, 1989, the Buffalo Bills made history against the Houston Oilers in the biggest comeback in NFL history. Led by backup quarterback Frank Reich, the Bills scored 32 second half points in 28 minutes to beat the Oilers.

January 4, 2014 looked similar: the Indianapolis Colts rallied in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs, scoring 28 points for a 45-44 edge in the AFC wild card matchup.

Fast forward to 2018. The Colts, who began the season 1-5, left for dead and a possible first round draft pick, are now headed to the playoffs.

The word “comeback” is defined as “a return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.” The Colts are masters of the comeback. Andrew Luck is the walking comeback kid. Frank Reich has trained his players to take criticism, run with it and overcome adversity, which is exactly what they’ve done all season.

“We’ve got to do it the right way, Luck said on Jan. 1. “I think Frank (Reich) plays that out very well for us. I think the players in this locker room buy into that and we understand that we have a great opportunity today to get better as football players, get better individually, get better as a unit and get better as a team.”

Get better as a unit they did indeed. Andrew Luck is having a career season with 430 completions, 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns. The Colts’ much improved offensive line has the NFL’s fewest sacks allowed all season. Linebacker Darius Leonard has been awarded a plethora of NFL honors, including multiple player of the week awards and AFC defensive player of the month. Center Quenton Nelson ended the regular season as the highest graded rookie offensive lineman in the league.

“These are the kind of guys who have the DNA, the makeup of everything that we are looking for –” Reich said. “All the intangibles, all the character qualities, everything about them. It’s a really hard filter to get through to get marked that way and both Quenton (Nelson) and Darius (Leonard) had that on their card. So that says something about their maturity and how fast we think they will develop.”

As the postseason begins, there is much talk of awards given out to the most deserving players and coaches of each category. There are currently six Colts in the running for multiple awards. Andrew Luck is a contender for MVP and Comeback Player of the Year, Darius Leonard for Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, Quenton Nelson for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Matt Eberflus for Assistant Coach of the Year, Chris Ballard for Executive of the Year, and Frank Reich for Coach of the Year.

Following the Colts’ victory in Tennessee last Sunday, Reich spoke to his players in the locker room and held up a sign with the #32 painted on it, a symbol of how far they’ve come this season. “Remember this?” he asked. “That’s where they had us ranked. What they didn’t see from the outside is what we saw from the inside. The trust, the toughness, getting better every day. We did something only two teams have done in NFL history.”

It’s been an undeniably hard fought regular season . The Colts were able to pull themselves out of a 1-5 hole, break a handful of records and advance into the postseason for the first time in three years. Saturday is do or die as the Colts face the Houston Texans for the third time this season. Kickoff is at 4:25 pm Eastern in Houston’s NRG Stadium.