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Pagano: Hasselbeck was 'literally on his deathbed'

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Football is a young man's game. At least, except for Thursday night.

In the age of the Millennial, it was four men over 32 years old that combined to score all the points for the Indianapolis Colts in their 27-20 win over the Houston Texans: Frank Gore, 32, rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown; Andre Jonson, 34, caught two touchdowns to go with 77 yards; Matt Hasselbeck, 40, threw two TD passes; and Adam Vinatieri, 42, banged home two field goals and three extra points.

Hasselbeck's performance is singularly remarkable. Not only do backup quarterbacks generally flop, crusty old ones sure aren't expected to play the toughest position in sports with aplomb.

Not only is Hasselbeck 40, he also spent the short week dealing with a bacterial infection, which hospitalized him for a night and caused half his week to be spent on a toilet. He took IVs just to function.

Every game, all season

"Lots of stuff coming out of the attic, then a lot of stuff coming out the basement," was how Hasselbeck described it, via the Indy Star's Zak Keefer.

No one could have expected much from the aged quarterback. An old guy? On a short week? Facing J.J. Watt? After seeing his first start since 2012 on Sunday? A man who missed practice because he was in the hospital? Is he playing with a walker, too? Please. No chance. Change your pick to Houston and walk away.

This is how his teammates described Hasselbeck prior to the game:

"He didn't look good, man," teammate Joe Reitz said. "He was sitting there like a zombie."

"Looked like warmed-over death," added Vinatieri.

Hasselbeck had every reason to struggle Thursday.

Instead, the veteran signal-caller managed the game with a calm ease, getting the Colts in the proper plays and throwing strikes when he needed them. Hasselbeck finished the game 18-of-29 passing for 213 yards, two touchdowns and his second win in four days to vault the Colts back atop the AFC South.

"Was literally on his deathbed Monday and Tuesday and mustered enough to come in on Wednesday and practice," coach Chuck Pagano said. "Grittiest performance I have seen in a long, long time."

You can dismiss "The Bacterial Infection Game" as overblown, or harp on how it says more about the Texans' dysfunction than the Colts' resiliency.

But you should marvel that a man -- past his prime in everything except shuffleboard and bingo -- went from the toilet to the huddle and delivered a win.

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