INDIANAPOLIS - Chuck Pagano has a simple answer when asked why Indianapolis Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and almost automatic kicker Adam Vinatieri are performing at such a high level in what would appear to be the twilight of their NFL careers.
"They are a pro's pro," the Colts head coach said Sunday. "This is not work to them. When it is, I am sure they will hang up their cleats."
Indianapolis called on its 40-and-over tandem to rally past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25-12 in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Hasselbeck, 40, threw two second-half touchdown passes to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, and Vinatieri, 42, added four field goals in the Colts' third consecutive victory.
Hasselbeck is 4-0 this season in place of injured starter Andrew Luck, who has a lacerated kidney and an abdominal injury. The Colts improved to 6-5 and are tied with Houston for first place in the AFC South. The Texans defeated New Orleans on Sunday.
Hasselbeck completed 26 of 42 passes for 315 yards and the two TDs. Hilton caught six passes for 95 yards, and wide receiver Donte Moncrief caught eight passes for 114 yards.
"We really had only three drives in the first half, and I was playing too careful, although I know that probably sounds crazy," Hasselbeck said. "(Tampa Bay) had a good plan, and I was too safe with the ball. Their defense reads eyes in the backfield, so we made some adjustments with play-action fakes in the second half, which helped us.
"They are tough to run against, and the other thing about the first half was that I don't know if we were playing with enough juice. For me, at my age, this is team football, and I am just trying to not screw it up."
Hasselbeck's 3-yard touchdown pass to Hilton with 5:53 remaining gave the Colts a 25-12 lead. Indianapolis drove 76 yards in 15 plays to take the 13-point lead. Tampa Bay appeared to have held Indianapolis to a field goal but the Bucs were called for jumping over the center in an attempt to block the kick, giving the Colts an automatic first down at the 6-yard line.
Vinatieri's 44-yard field goal with 1:02 to play in the third quarter extended the Indianapolis lead to 19-12. The Colts began the drive at the Tampa Bay 41 after the Bucs missed a 54-yard field goal attempt and were assessed a dead-ball unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Hasselbeck's 19-yard touchdown pass to Hilton gave the Colts a 16-12 lead with 7:22 remaining in the third quarter. Hasselbeck's 31-yard pass to Moncrief moved the ball to the Buccaneers' 19. The Colts drove 46 yards in three plays to take the lead.
Indianapolis trimmed the Tampa Bay lead to 12-9 on Vinatieri's 26-yard field goal with 10:01 to play in the third quarter. That eight-play, 56-yard drive included Hasselbeck completions of 31 yards to Hilton and 16 yards to Moncrief.
"Matt came through again, and Vinny was outstanding," Pagano said. "Matt played with no turnovers and made the big plays when we needed them. He has played a lot of football, and again today, he seized the moment.
"These guys are finding a way. We had to shuffle our offensive line a bit today, and we showed again that we are a gritty, determined bunch. We had to be, because (Tampa Bay) was hell bent on stopping the run."
The Colts rushed 26 times for only 27 total yards, but Hasselbeck and Vinatieri came to the rescue.
"To beat a good football team, you have to play good football, and we did not do that today," Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said, "We had opportunities and didn't take advantage of it. We were a little off in the passing game today, and we were not able to get any turnovers.
"That's a good football team, and to beat a team like that in their stadium, you have to play better than we played today. Also, we again had too many penalties."
Tampa Bay was penalized 12 times for 95 yards.
The Buccaneers took a 12-6 halftime lead on Jameis Winston's 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate with 1:54 remaining in the second quarter, capping a five-play, 76-yard drive that included Doug Martin's 56-yard run to the Indianapolis 30. Conner Barth's extra-point attempt was wide left.
Winston finished 20 of 36 for 245 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"We have to execute better," Winston said when asked why the Buccaneers failed to score during the second half. "We have to make the plays when we need them, and that all is on me."
Barth tied the game at 6-6 with 5:38 left in the second quarter on a 30-yard field goal. That Tampa Bay drive covered 68 yards in 15 plays and included Winston completions of 20, 17 and 20 yards.
Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal with 12:44 remaining in the first half had given the Colts a 6-3 lead. Hasselbeck completed passes of 29 yards to Hilton and 22 yards to Andre Johnson during that 11-play, 76-yard drive.
Barth's 38-yard field goal with 2:50 to go in the first quarter tied the game at 3-3 after Vinatieri gave the Colts am early 3-0 lead with a 49-yard field goal.
Hasselbeck finished the first half 12 of 22 for 140 yards. He was sacked twice.
Winston was 9 of 15 for 130 yards and the touchdown pass to Brate.
NOTES: Colts LB Jerrell Freeman suffered a hamstring injury during the third quarter and did not return ... Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw left the game in the fourth quarter with a wrist injury and did not return ... Tampa Bay LB Bruce Carter left the game in the third quarter as a precaution for a possible concussion .. With 5:31 remaining in the second quarter, Indianapolis had run 26 plays for 128 yards, and Tampa Bay had run 27 plays for 128 yards ... Bucs RB Doug Martin carried 12 times for 90 yards (7.5 yards per carry) during the opening 30 minutes ... The Colts' Pat McAfee had one punt - a 57-yarder - during the opening half. That was the only punt by either team before halftime ... Tampa Bay had the ball for 15:09 in the first two quarters, and Indianapolis had it for 14:51 ... The Colts improved to 3-3 in Lucas Oil Stadium.