INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis left football the way he wanted Sunday.
He got one more strip-sack for the record books, one more football for his family, and one more win for his personal resume — even if he did have to thank a quarterback for making it possible.
Andrew Luck threw a 1-yard TD pass to Jack Doyle with 9 seconds left, giving the Colts a 24-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars that set off a frenzied postgame farewell celebration two days after Mathis announced he was retiring.
“You just don’t want it to end, but to be in position to say goodbye to the fans and the teammates the way they did, I can’t ask for anything more,” Mathis said. “I was extremely nervous, like more than usual for some reason. I guess for obvious reasons.”
The game had more impact on draft position than playoff position, and the final result may play some role in what the two team owners decide to do with their coaches.
Otherwise, it was all about milestone feats, Bill Polian’s induction into the Colts’ Ring of Honor and the departure of Mathis, Indy’s career sacks leader (123).
Unlike many of his former high-profile teammates — Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne — Mathis was able to go out on his own terms and received the kind of send-off the others did not.
There was a tribute video during his final introduction; highlights played throughout the game; a halftime hug from Polian; and a public postgame celebration with his wife and children on the field. Teammates, coaches and even a couple of Jaguars came over to congratulate Mathis.
“This is the only fitting ending for one of the greatest players of all time, one of the greatest pass rushers of all time and probably one of the greatest teammates of all time,” Luck said after going 24 of 40 with 321 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
It couldn’t have happened without him.
Luck rallied the Colts from a 17-0 halftime deficit by leading them to two third-quarter touchdowns and then, with no timeouts and down 20-17, took Indy (8-8) on a season-closing 75-yard TD drive that ended with the TD pass to Doyle. It took 84 seconds and left Jacksonville (3-13), which had just taken a 20-17 lead with 1:33 to go, with barely enough time for one miracle play.
Mathis’ teammates snuffed that out as time expired.
“It kind of speaks of our year,” Jags quarterback Blake Bortles said after blowing the lead and matching the second-worst record in franchise history. “You take what you can from this game and move forward.”
Colts running back Frank Gore added to his incredible season Sunday by running 16 times for 62 yards, giving him 1,026 this season.
He became the fourth player in league history to rush for 1,000 yards at age 33 or older and the oldest since 35-year-old John Riggins did it in 1984. Gore is 33.
Gore also joins Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith, Curtis Martin, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders as the only players in NFL history with nine or more 1,000-yard seasons. He ended the Colts’ eight-year drought without a 1,000-yard rusher. Joseph Addai was the last Colts’ player to achieve it in 2007.
THE WAITING GAME
T.Y. Hilton finished the season by becoming the first Colts’ player to win the receiving title since Reggie Wayne in 2007.
It wasn’t easy. After padding his 30-yard lead with six catches for 95 yards, he still had to fend off late-afternoon challenges from his two nearest competitors: New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Atlanta receiver Julio Jones. Hilton finished 1,448, Jones had 1,409 and Beckham had 1,367.
BY THE NUMBERS
Bortles was 25 of 39 with 301 yards but came up 94 yards short of his second straight 4,000-yard season. And on a day that the Jags were without their top two running backs, Corey Grant ran 18 times for 122 yards including a 57-yard TD run in the first half that made it 17-0.
Now comes the hard part — sorting out the coaching situation.
Jacksonville has already fired Gus Bradley. After installing Doug Marrone as interim coach, the Jags broke a nine-game losing streak — the longest in franchise history — before this loss.
Indy’s second straight playoff absence has put the futures of coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson in jeopardy despite going 48-32 and never having a losing season during their five-year tenures.