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October 7, 2012

Emotional win

Colts stun Packers, take game ball to hospitalized coach

INDIANAPOLIS — The only thing Reggie Wayne was focused on late Sunday afternoon was the end zone.

The Indianapolis Colts wide receiver caught a pass from rookie quarterback Andrew Luck inside the 5-yard line with time running out in the fourth quarter and stole a glimpse of painted blue field turf in front of him.

The Green Bay Packers (2-3), desperately protecting a five-point lead, swarmed to the football and several defenders grabbed ahold of Wayne and tried to pull him backward. For just an instant, the 12th-year veteran flicked his hands out toward the goal line, attempting to pierce the plane and put six points on the scoreboard.

Wayne was carrying not just the expectations of 67,020 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium — many of whom were firmly in the visiting team’s corner — nor the hopes of his young teammates. The weight on his back included the watchful eyes of his head coach, Chuck Pagano, resting in a hospital room just down the street as he receives treatment for leukemia.

Wayne went down in a pile of white jerseys and yellow helmets, and he wasn’t yet sure whether he’d scored. It was only when he checked the replay on the giant video board above him that the receiver began to grasp the magnitude of what he’d just accomplished.

It will go down in the record books simply as a 4-yard touchdown reception. And Indianapolis (2-2) needed a little nudge from above that helped push Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby’s 51-yard field goal attempt wide to the left in the final moments.

But the indelible image of this unforgettable game will be of Wayne, fighting off defenders and stretching over the goal line to deliver an unlikely 30-27 victory.

“I just I didn’t want to be denied, you know?” Wayne said, his voice drained by the effort and emotion of the day. “I just wanted to go out there and get in that end zone. That’s what we said in the huddle, ‘Somebody make a play. Somebody cross that end zone.’ Andrew threw me the ball, and I saw that end zone right there. Got a grip on the ball, stuck it in there and tried to hurry up and sneak it back. And it worked out for us. Wasn’t sure at first how close it was, but when I saw it on the replay, I kind of shocked myself a little bit.”

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