TOP 20 GAMES OF 2012

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Game 15: Colts at Lions Week 13

A Tale of Two Seasons

Last season, the 32 NFL teams ran a total of 32,882 plays from scrimmage. So to suggest that a single play told the story of not one, but two teams' seasons might be a stretch. Yet one sequence during the Indianapolis Colts-Detroit Lions game in Week 13 certainly fits the bill.

This was a fantastic interconference battle, with Detroit holding onto its season for dear life, and Andrew Luck injecting life into a franchise whose head coach was still fighting for his.

The Colts' 2012 season story centered around Chuck Pagano's fight with leukemia. Luck punctuated the feel-good story of "ChuckStrong" with comeback after comeback and making fans at least temporarily forget about Peyton Manning.

Most Game-Winning Drives – Single Season (1960)
Andrew Luck, IND 271 7
Peyton Manning, IND 2009 7
Jake Delhomme, CAR 2003 7
Peyton Manning, IND 1999 7
Jake Plummer, ARI 1998 7
Don Majkowski, GB 1989 7
Brian Sine, CLE 1979 7


The Lions? They were inventing ways to lose. There were breakdowns in run defense versus the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11, passing game breakdowns against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12. Against the Colts, it would be the secondary that broke down, enough to give any fan of the Honolulu Blue and Silver a mental breakdown. The horrific defense in the game's final moments was enough for this writer to break down and watch "Breakdown" with Kurt Russell after the game.

At 7-4, the clutch Colts needed this win to stay in the AFC Wild Card driver's seat. At 4-7, the come-up-short Lions needed this win to make something of their season, and prove the playoff berth in 2011 was no aberration.

Down 33-28 with a little more than a minute to play, Indy marched 61 yards in 64 seconds to get to inside the red zone. Two Luck scrambles for big chunks, and a fantastic throw-and-catch to Reggie Wayne over the middle accounted for most of the yardage. But after three Luck incompletions from the Lions' 14-yard line, it was now or never for both teams, with four seconds on the clock.

Fourth-and-ten? Shoot, call it fourth-and-the-season.

Indy sends five receivers out. Each one runs routes into the end zone except Donnie Avery, who drags over the middle around the 10-yard line. Lions defensive end Cliff Avril rushes upfield, causing Luck to step up in the pocket. He keeps stepping up, so much so he's keeps motoring towards the line of scrimmage. At the last second he shot puts the ball to Avery running just a few yards in front of him.

Part of the Lions' secondary seems asleep at the wheel. No less than three defenders are hovering around the goal line, towards the middle of the field, completely oblivious to the guy running the shallow cross in the Colts helmet. Avery catches the dump pass and is at the five with a full head of steam before the defense reacts. Avery could have driven a Nissan Pulsar over the goal line before a Lion touched it

LaVon Brazil leaps into the air as Donnie Avery scores the game-winning touchdown for the Colts.

Ditto Luck, who was so pumped he sprinted right behind Avery into the end zone, like Willie “Mays" Hayes following teammates to home plate in Major League.

It was crazy. It was fitting … for both teams.

Can't Miss Play 1: With Detroit leading 10-7, Megatron made one of the sweetest catches you'll ever see.

Calvin Johnson made catches like this look routine during his record-breaking 2012 season.

Quarterback Matt Stafford tried to hit Johnson on the sideline 25 yards downfield, but Colts corner Cassius Vaughn had almost perfect coverage. No matter. Megatron stuck his right paw just beyond Vaughn's body – running full stride no less – and reeled ‘er in. Take another look.

Can't Miss Play 2: Andrew Luck gets plenty of credit for his accuracy in the short and intermediate game, but he also can put a deft touch on the long ball.

With his team trailing 23-14 early in the second half, Luck took a quick seven-step drop, knowing EXACTLY where he wanted to go with the ball. With the Lions in three-deep coverage, Luck looked off the single-high safety, and then let fly for Donnie Avery sprinting down the ride side of the filed in single one-on-one coverage.

Long story short, that ball landed perfectly in Avery's bread basket 42 yards downfield.

Boneheaded Moment of the Day (Year): The Lions' overdependence on the pass is getting close to ridiculous. Jim Schwartz and company ran the ball only 33.7 percent of the time in 2012, lowest in the league. In 2011, the Lions ran it 33.6 percent, also last in the NFL. (Hey, at least they're consistent.)

When this team actually does decide to run the football, some nice things happen, like Joique Bell almost going for 70 on this fourth-quarter play.

Did You Know? The Colts and Lions were once in the same division. From 1953 to 1966, they were in the NFL's Western Division, although the Colts were playing in Baltimore at that time.

These two franchises dominated the NFL in the 1950s. Of the 10 NFL championships in that decade, the Lions or Colts played in six of them. Legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas led Baltimore to the title in 1958 and 1959, while the Lions were a powerhouse, playing for titles in 1952-54 and 1957. Detroit -- yes, Detroit -- won it all in '52, '53, and '57.

Why This Game is No. 15: Come on, any time a quarterback nearly runs across the goal line simultaneously with his receiver, that's a pretty cool play. And to win the game to boot? Awesome.

The final seconds of Colts-Lions sealed the deal on the national perception of Andrew Luck: a clutch performer proving to be the franchise quarterback he was billed to be.

Beyond the micro view of the Colts, there is the macro view of the league as a whole. Colts-Lions became Exhibit No. 1,278 of why the NFL is special as a product. The regular season means something, and that for lack of a better phrase, that's sayin' somethin'. (Like don't lengthen the season, Commish.)

Visit NFL Game Center for more on Colts at Lions.

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