INDIANAPOLIS –** Stop Andrew Luck. Be wary of the dangerous Colts receivers and tight ends. The running game? An afterthought when gameplanning against Indianapolis, a high-octane offense.
So much for conventional wisdom. The Colts gashed the Eagles in the first half with a running game that was a major question mark until Monday night, as backs Trent Richardson (13 carries for 57 yards) and Ahmad Bradshaw (five carries for 45 yards) combined for 102 yards on 18 carries in the first half, after which the Colts held a 17-6 lead.
By comparison, Luck was 10-of-17 passing for 58 yards, clearly content with using the running game to control the tempo and keep the Eagles offense on the sidelines.
The Eagles turned the tables in the second half, taking the football away twice -- one fumble and one interception -- in a rousing 30-27 comeback win at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"We made some adjustments," said defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, who forced a Trent Richardson fumble that DeMeco Ryans recovered in the third quarter. The Eagles turned that takeaway into seven points to tie the game at 20-20. "They used some of their 'big' personnel and ran the ball on us and we figured it out, kept fighting and we tightend things up in the second half."
Much of the success early went to the right side of the Eagles defense. Indianapolis played power football and the Eagles did a poor job adjusting until the third quarter when, suddenly, the game was tied. On the ensuing possession after an Eagles touchdown, Cox forced a Richardson fumble that Ryans recovered, and a 19-yard Darren Sproles run five plays tied the game at 20-20.
But the Colts came right back, and this time they did it throwing the football. Luck completed 7-of-9 passes for 75 yards, including a 7-yard scoring strike to Bradshaw to push the Colts into the lead at 27-20.
After an Eagles three-and-out series, Indianapolis got the football back at its 37-yard line with 10 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Luck and the Colts moved methodically down the field mixing in some runs and some timely throws, including a critical 3rd-and-5 completion to T.Y. Hilton for a 16-yard gain to put the ball at the Philadelphia 23-yard line.
But the defense came up with its second takeaway as safety Malcolm Jenkins picked off Luck and returned it to the Philadelphia 24-yard line with 5:08 remaining. The Eagles had life, thanks to the second-half defensive turnaround, and they quickly went down the field and tied the game at 27-27 on a Nick Foles touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin.
"We stuck with the plan," said Jenkins. "We played good, hard football and believed in each other. That's what winning teams do. It was a battle against a great football team. We knew going in how tough the Colts were.
"We didn't back down. We fought and fought and won in the end."
The defense made one last stand to set up Cody Parkey for the game-winning field goal. Luck, the master of comebacks, had the football at the Colts 20-yard line with 3 minutes, 25 seconds remaining and the game tied. Two running plays gained five yards and then the Eagles clamped down on Reggie Wayne for an incomplete pass and the Colts punted.
Indianapolis finished with 169 rushing yards on 38 carries, but Luck was just 20-of-34 passing for 172 yards. He tossed three touchdown passes, but also had the critical interception to Jenkins in the fourth quarter.
Wayne was limited to three catches and 28 yards. T.Y. Hilton grabbed six passes for 65 yards. Most of Luck's success came throwing underneath to the running backs and tight ends.
"We responded to the challenge," said cornerback Bradley Fletcher. "It was big. A confidence-building win for us. It was great to get out of here with the win."