Hasselbeck a most-unlikely savior

Little of what the Indianapolis Colts do is pretty.

Yet when they’ve had no Luck, they’ve still worked magic.

As a result, they’re still on track for a winning record — which means their season might not become the unmitigated disaster it was turning out to be.

Or still could be.

For the third time in three starts, Matt Hasselbeck led the Colts to a win while Andrew Luck watched in street clothes. Had the 40-year-old Hasselbeck failed to do so in any of those opportunities, the Colts would be sub. 500.

Had he failed in all of them, which would have been no surprise (maybe even an expectation), Indy would be near the bottom of the AFC South basement and likely out of the playoff race.

But Hasselbeck has yet to fail, so the Colts remain at the top of the division (tied with Houston) and are very much in the postseason chase.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is, the Colts are still only 5-5. They’re still mistake-prone, still vulnerable on defense, still weak in pass protection and still don’t dominate opponents — even bad ones.

Consequently, they’re still not championship contenders. Not even close.

But the Colts are inching toward respectability.

Beating previously undefeated Denver three weeks ago was a major step in that direction. For the first time all season, Luck looked like Luck, and the Colts earned what could have been a season-changing win.

But then we found out Luck suffered a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle during that win, and suddenly the outlook became gloomy again. Up next was Atlanta, a nonconference opponent with a winning record — just the sort team the Colts never seem to beat, even with Luck.

Yet somehow, some way, Hasselbeck stepped up again and saved the Colts from falling below .500 at a critical point the season. More importantly, he gave — or rather, gives — them hope that all is not lost while Luck convalesces.

For the first time in the modern Colts era, they can actually win games when their star quarterback doesn’t play. How magical is that?

That’s a tribute not only to Hasselbeck but to head coach Chuck Pagano, who — love him or loathe him — has a way of bringing out the best in a collection of “talent” that at best is over-hyped and at worst underwhelming.

Indy’s roster is not and never was built to win a Lombardi Trophy. Not with this offensive line, not with an uneven running game, and not with a defense that doesn’t pressure quarterbacks. Indy is built to go only as far as Luck can carry it.

And at the moment, Luck isn’t carrying anything but a clipboard.

Yet the Colts have five wins. Hasselbeck has engineered three. Who could’ve ever predicted that?

They might be out of Luck, but the Colts apparently aren’t out of miracles.

Seems Hasselbeck still has a bit of that old Pro Bowl magic, after all.

Rick Morwick is the sports editor for the Daily Journal in Johnson County, a sister paper of The Tribune. Send comments to jmorey@tribtown.com.

Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rmorwick@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.