INDIANAPOLIS – Zach Pascal would like at least one play back from his career performance Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich digging deep into the playbook, the 24-year-old wide receiver recorded his first career pass attempt. And it could have been a highlight.
Running back Nyheim Hines was open in the flat and might have scored a touchdown if he could make one defender miss, but Pascal’s pass was too long and fell incomplete.
“All week (in practice), I underthrew him, and today he was wide open,” Pascal said. “So I’m, like, ‘OK, let me just put some air under it and let him run under it.’ That play hurt. It hurt me, but hopefully we’ll get it called again and make it happen.”
The play – called “Jackie Moon” after Will Ferrell’s character in the 2008 basketball movie “Semi-Pro” – has been on the call sheet a few times this year. Not hitting on it was about the only thing that went wrong for Pascal during a 30-23 victory against the Houston Texans.
He caught six passes for a career-high 106 yards and two touchdowns – double his career total entering the season.
Pascal’s big day was a big hit in the locker room. The undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion was cut by the Tennessee Titans in 2017 and made a niche for himself in Indianapolis by doing the dirty work.
With Houston rolling coverage to star wideout T.Y. Hilton on Sunday, it was Pascal’s turn in the spotlight.
“He prepares, and in practice he does what he does out here on the field consistently,” Colts quarterback Jaocby Brissett said. “As a quarterback, that’s what you ask for. And when those guys do those things like he does in the run game, you have to reward them. And you know how precious it is for him. He had a career day. He did a great job.”
Pascal credits offensive quality control coach Gunnard Twyner with spending extra time teaching him the finer details of the position.
The results are increasingly difficult to ignore.
With expected No. 2 wide receiver Devin Funchess out with a broken clavicle, Pascal has been filling the void. He’s up to 13 catches for 239 yards and three touchdowns for the season and seems to be getting better each week.
“I wish I could say that we were surprised,” Reich said. “This goes back to last year. He kind of won us over really quick, and he won the quarterbacks over with his toughness and his big-play ability. He’s got deceiving speed, and he’s got a really good knack of separating at the top of a route. So if you’re playing man coverage, he can make big plays. He did that today.”
BIG Q TD?
For the first time since his Pop Warner days, left guard Quenton Nelson lined up in the offensive backfield as a fullback Sunday.
He eventually ran a pass route after helping to sell a run fake as a lead blocker. The play was not designed for the former Notre Dame star, but Brissett admitted he briefly thought of throwing Nelson the football.
“It was a thought that crossed my head for like a glimpse,” Brissett said. “I was like, ‘Ah, this is gonna be sweet. Q could score a touchdown.’ And then I thought, ‘You know what? Let me throw it to the person that I know catches the ball.’ We’ll have to fix in another play for him to get an easier one.”
Ebron got the touchdown on an acrobatic catch in the back of the end zone. But Reich said there might be another shot for Nelson in the future.
“It was good to get him back there, right?” Reich said. “You may see more of him back there in the future.”
TOUGHING IT OUT
Pierre Desir didn’t practice all week while nursing a hamstring injury. But the cornerback passed a team stress test Friday and was essentially cleared for game action Saturday.
He had his ups and downs while guarding Texans star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins but finished with seven tackles and one critical fourth-quarter interception.
“It’s very rare when a guy doesn’t practice all week and then he goes out and plays,” Reich said. “But that speaks to Pierre, the kind of person and player he is and the confidence we have in him.”