INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano is many things as a football coach, and one of them is being a purist.
A number of things Sunday brought him warm feelings, and how the team closed out its 28-16 victory over Houston was one more highlight for the returning field general.
As Indianapolis scored 14 straight points for a two-score cushion, its defense hindered two drives with sacks and ended a third with an end zone interception.
As the Colts took possession at their 20 with 9:46 to go, Houston had two time outs left in a game it desperately needed to win. The Texans never saw the ball again.
On second-and-14, Luck tried connecting with rookie receiver
After two more Ballard rushes and a Houston off-sides penalty, the Colts had a third-and-one at the Texans’ 40 – Luck carried for two yards.
A Houston time out was spent between three- and seven-yard Ballard carries that put Indianapolis at the Texans’ 28 with another first down.
Ballard carried for eight yards, and Houston burned its final timeout with 3:31 remaining. On third down, Luck hit
Luck took three straight kneel downs to bleed the final 120 ticks off the clock. It was a possession to Pagano’s liking.
“Being a defensive guy and working on the defensive side of the ball my whole life, it’s glorious,” said Pagano. “It’s unbelievable to watch because you don’t have to go back out there. They just kept grinding it out and grinding it out, and I’m talking about against a front seven that there was a bunch of tough yards.”
The 15-play drive moved 63 yards, 34 of which were gained offensively. Ballard had nine rushes for 27 yards, while Indianapolis kept it on the ground 14 times. The lone pass produced a first down, as did three rushes.
“Vick Ballard, that offensive line, those tight ends and those wide receivers blocking downfield for them, to be able to run the football and take time off the clock (is great),” said Pagano. “There are a lot of situations where you hope to get out of a ballgame with three-and-a-half, four minutes. To have nine minutes and then take that off the clock and get down on a knee and have the game end and have those moments that we were all able to have while we were out there taking that knee, it was just a tremendous play by our offensive guys.”
For the game, Indianapolis gained 81 yards on 33 rushes. While subbing for Pagano, interim head coach Bruce Arians mentioned on occasions about the “numbers” not being important in the statistics. The quality of the runs and doing so when needed is what is treasured.
The Colts were able to close a win against a stellar defense that starred three games earlier when Houston beat the Colts, 29-17, on December 16.
Both Pagano and Arians spoke earlier this year how the Colts would look a bit more like AFC North teams than they had in the past. The final drive was proof of those words.
Looking for momentum heading into the playoffs at Baltimore on Sunday as the AFC’s fifth seed, the Colts closed out the season in a way that would please any head coach.