INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano's backup plan worked. But the Colts didn't get the help they needed and missed the playoffs.
Recently signed quarterbacks Josh Freeman — the former first-round draft pick of the Bucs — and Ryan Lindley each threw one touchdown pass in the first half Sunday, and Jerrell Freeman opened the second half with a 23-yard interception return to give the Colts a season-closing 30-24 victory over Tennessee.
"It was a great experience, definitely a whirlwind all around," Josh Freeman said. "A lot of guys did a lot of things right today."
The coaching staff split the workload. They asked Freeman to learn the regular offense and Lindley to figure out the two-minute drill.
Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen — a former Bucs assistant — asked injured QBs Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst to drill the newcomers during the week.
"Those guys were like little head coaches … and Hasselbeck was like a kid cheering in the game," Christensen said.
Freeman was 15 of 28 with 149 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Lindley was 6 of 10 with 58 yards and an 18-yard score with 13 seconds left in the first half to give the Colts a 20-14 lead.
Tampa Bay drafted Freeman No. 17 overall in 2009 and he had three consecutive seasons passing for 3,000 or more yards, including a franchise-record 4,065 yards in 2012. But he fell out of favor with then-coach Greg Schiano and was released during the season in 2013. He bounced from the Vikings to the Dolphins to the Giants and this year would up playing for Brooklyn in the Fall Experimental Football League.
"My goal was to go and play well enough to win, try to play turnover free," Freeman said.
The Colts avoided their first losing season since 2011. They just didn't get enough help to make the playoffs and now they'll wait to find out their coach's fate.
Indy could have made the playoffs with a Houston loss — and if seven other games fell exactly the right way. Instead, the Texans' 30-6 victory over Jacksonville ended that hope and perhaps Pagano's tenure in Indy. He is expected to meet today with team owner Jim Irsay.
"Hell yeah we want (Chuck) back," safety Mike Adams said. "Given the circumstances, and how we fought, the way we came out, (Chuck) should be back."