Josh Gordy walked away from the Kansas City end zone celebration after another touchdown put the Chiefs ahead by 28 points with less than 29 minutes to play in the second half.
You couldn’t blame the former Washington County cornerback or any of his Indianapolis Colts teammates if a notion of hopelessness crossed their minds. As NFL playoff situations go, this seemed about as hopeless as it gets. The win probability chart put the Colts chances at that point at 0.93 percent.
Quitting, however, never crossed Gordy’s mind nor any of the rest of the Colts. Indianapolis rallied for 45-44 victory which ranks as the second largest comeback in NFL playoffs history and the largest second-half margin ever covered in regulation.
“Being a part of something like that ... it really was a test of your character and how you respond to adversity,” Gordy said. “And also what type of leadership you have on the team. If you have a team that doesn’t have great leadership, you get down that much and everybody is pouting and pointing fingers and this and that. But guys on our sideline stayed encouraged. We’ve been down before. Nothing new. Just do what we do and offense is going to do what they got to do and special teams – we’re going to pull this victory out.”
It was Gordy – a reserve corner in the Colts’ nickle defense – who played a prominent role in stopping what had been a runaway offense by the Chiefs. Playing his largest role since being acquired by Indy in a trade with St. Louis in 2012, Gordy helped the Colts shut off the big-play spigot and eventually made the game-clinching defensive stop by preventing Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe from catching a decisive fourth-down pass inbounds.
“Just having the coaches trust and believe in me, that’s a big statement from them putting me in that situation,” Gordy said.
Gordy learned quickly that the NFL is no place for quitters. After failing to be recruited by any regional teams after playing six games as a senior for the Golden Hawks in 2004, he went off to Central Michigan to play in college.
He signed as an undrafted free agent with Jacksonville in 2010 but failed to make it past the final cut before the season. A discouraged Gordy returned home to Warthen, Ga., and figured his football career was over.
“All the coaches and players told me to stay in shape, but obviously you’re not hearing that because you just got cut,” he said. “I went home for three weeks and didn’t work out one time. I’d basically given up and was getting ready to go back to school and finish my degree.”
All Gordy needed to complete his health fitness degree was serve an internship. He was preparing to do just that in the cardiac rehab unit at University Hospital in Augusta.
“The NFL’s not for me, got to move on and can’t sit around and sulk about it,” he said.
But before he started his internship, his phone rang.
“Got a call for a workout in Miami and that’s when the ball started back rolling,” he said. “It didn’t work out for Miami but worked out for Green Bay and that’s where I stuck.”
After a season on the Packers practice squad he got cut again before the 2011 season but landed immediately in St. Louis. He ended up started nine games at corner for the Rams that season. He’s spent the last two years with the Colts as a reserve corner and is content with his role.
“It’s gonna take all 46 guys on Sunday to win the game,” he said. “Everybody’s got a role. What I’m gonna do I’ll do to the best of my ability and not complain about it. How ever many snaps you get in the NFL, they’re precious. There are plenty of guys who wish they were in your position. I just want to take advantage of every one of them and cherish every snap and make the best of it.”
With starting corner Greg Toler struggling and eventually leaving Saturday’s game with an injury, Gordy’s role expanded against the Chiefs. He responded with a career-high five tackles and a key third-down pass breakup early in the fourth quarter with the Colts still trailing by 14.
Gordy said he finally thought the comeback would really happen only after Andrew Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for the long touchdown that put the Colts on top for the first time. But it was going to require another defensive stop to seal it – and that ultimately came down to Gordy.
On fourth-and-11 at the Indy 43, Gordy had single coverage on Bowe, the Chiefs’ top receiver who was consistently beating Toler in the first half.
“I kind of went for the hard jam at the line and missed him and he kind of got by me,” Gordy said. “But adrenaline kicked in and speed played a factor in catching back up to him.”
Bowe, however, was able to grab the ball along with Gordy’s arm inside the 20, close enough for a potential game-winning field goal. But Gordy’s tight coverage prevented the receiver from getting his second foot inbounds with 1:55 remaining.
“We have a motto you use from little league on up – it’s a game of inches,” Gordy said. “That last play was a great example of that. Lining up I saw the quarterback surveying the field and I was pretty much thinking they were coming this way with the ball. As a DB that’s kind of the position you want to be in. You want to be the one to make the play and end the game. We got great pressure up front and they might have made him throw the ball out by a couple inches. That’s what we needed.”
With the stop, the Colts sidelines and the home crowd erupted as Gordy saluted the fans.
“It was one of those feelings you can’t duplicate anywhere else,” Gordy said. “Once you’re done playing the game you’ll never get that feeling again. It was just electric. Lucas Oil (Stadium) was super loud, probably the loudest I’ve ever heard it in there. It was a heckuva feeling.”
The victory earned the Colts the chance to play Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Saturday in the divisional round with a berth in the AFC Championship game on the line. Gordy will resume his usual role in third downs against one of the league’s greatest passing quarterbacks.
“We take a big piece of momentum going into this week,” he said. “We’ve got a great challenge going up to Foxboro. We all know about the Patriots and the quarterback they’ve got there, so you know it’s going to be a great test especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
The one thing you can count on is that Gordy and the Colts aren’t going to quit.