INDIANAPOLIS – Needing momentum to finish strongly after a 6-2 start reached 8-5, Chuck Pagano charted a direction to help the Colts gain momentum heading toward the post-season.
He talked about fundamentals, execution, technique and sticking to a preparation process that had led to 19 wins in 29 games.
His coachable squad listened, performed and finished 11-5 in sailing to the playoffs. The latest win was Sunday’s 30-10 verdict over Jacksonville.
The Colts finished with the AFC's fourth playoff seed with Cincinnati and New England victories. The Colts will host Kansas City in the Wild Card round.
“Guys caught fire, they kept playing,” said Pagano. “We had some ups and downs, some great victories and some really bad defeats. The leadership, the quality of the people in our locker room, the coaches, you just stick to the process. Never too high, never too low.”
Indianapolis struck a defensive chord in wins over Houston, Kansas City and Jacksonville, holding the Texans and Chiefs to 10 combined points, and the Jaguars amassed that total Sunday only after driving 91 yards for a touchdown in the last two minutes.
Had the Colts not allowed the last drive, Indianapolis would have held three straight foes in single digits and below 300 net yards.
“I would definitely say we’ve got hot,” said Pagano. “Any time you can play the type of defense that we’ve played consistently over the past three weeks, 25-3, 23-7 and today (it’s great).
“It says 10 on the scoreboard, but three points really for the majority of that game. (The) defense is playing lights out, gaining a ton of momentum, a ton of confidence.”
The Colts closed the year by allowing nine-of-37 third downs being converted in the last three games. Sunday the Colts defense had three three-and-outs, pushing the total to 15 in the last 36 possessions.
The Colts scored 24 points the last two weeks off opponents’ turnovers. Indianapolis finished with a franchise-record 14 turnovers this season and a plus-13 ratio (27:14). That came after the team was minus-12 in 2012 and ranked 26th.
“That’s huge,” said
“We took this thing over a couple years ago (and) they had left us for dead – 2-14 (in 2011),” said Pagano. “All we did as players and coaches was made a decision that we weren’t going to live in circumstances. We were going to live in vision. We were going to go to work.
“Hats off to the players and coaches. (We) got the best owner in the NFL. Ryan (Grigson) and his crew do an unbelievable job of getting us players, but it’s the guys. It’s their resiliency.”
The Colts’ offense was resilient in protecting the ball and rushing well over the last three games. Indianapolis ran for 367 yards in the final three games, a potency that allowed
“Huge,” said Luck of the recent rushing prowess. “Statistically it may not jump out and pop out at you, but I think when you can run the ball and pick up some first downs and keep the defense on their heels, it’s huge.”
For Pagano, it is all about a group of players who listen and execute selflessly.
“We always talk about the team, the team, the team. There’s nothing more important,” said Pagano. “We know the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Our guys have bought into that. It’s very gratifying to look at all the faces of those players and coaches and be able to again win 11 games.
“We always talk about faith is believing in something that you can’t see. The reward is if you believe in it long enough, you’ll probably get to see it. Our journey continues.”
COLTS NOTES –