INDIANAPOLIS – After the excitement of a game-winning drive in the opener against Oakland, Indianapolis was trying to do the same thing against Miami.
Down 24-20 and with a last-chance possession, the Colts moved from their 14 to the Miami 23 before the drive ended in disappoint and defeat.
Chuck Pagano remained calm and supportive of his troops in the moments after the loss, telling them in a deathly-quiet locker room that work on Monday was ahead to correct mistakes and then it was full preparation for San Francisco.
Seven days later, he stood among his exuberant players after a 27-7 victory and in lauding them, he spoke again about corrections and planted the seeds for focus on Jacksonville.
Now, after his team has outscored the 49ers and Jaguars 64-10 in consecutive road wins to grab a share of the AFC South lead with Tennessee, Pagano stresses again that focus and maintaining a solid direction is the proper way to attack visiting Seattle this Sunday.
“It’s just like playing a game, never too high and never too low,” said Pagano of the style he favors. “We just try to keep it on the highway. You can’t ride those ebbs and flows, good or bad. We just try to be consistent.”
Players so many times reflect the personality of their coach. One like Pagano, who establishes sincere relationships with players, has a special way of communicating in a very tough business.
A genuine nature and an honest approach are ways to draw things from within.
“These guys are looking for consistency. I think everybody’s looking for consistency,” said Pagano. “They want to be able to know that when they walk in here after a win that we’re going to watch the tape, we’re going to go through it, we’re going to point out the plusses, we’re going to talk about the negative things, we’re going to talk about the things we need to clean up.
“They want to know that if something bad happens, we lose a ballgame, it’s the same thing. They’re not going to walk in here and all of the sudden get Attila the Hun sitting in the front of the meeting room going crazy. It’s about staying consistent and staying steady and sticking to the process.”
Veteran players have been around Pagano and his coaches since mid-April. Younger players have been around almost as long.
They see their leaders in times of no, low and high stress, and they see them in educational venues as well as in personal moments. The belief is there that competitively and in every regard players are put in positions to succeed.
Competition will provide adversity regardless of preparation, and Pagano knows handling matters in an even-keeled and tactful way sustains for the duration.
“We’ve talked about it before, it’s a long, long season. It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said Pagano. “You can’t get on this rollercoaster, it’s too much. It drains you mentally, physically it’s hard, so we just try to keep it as consistent as possible.
“We don’t hide anything. We point out what we need to point out and then we move on.”
Some thought the loss to Miami could cause damage down the line in the playoff race. While it may, it may not.
The key was not to compound the problem with less-than-stellar preparation as the Colts tried to avoid consecutive losses for the first time under Pagano, and they were trying to do the same thing the 49ers were attempting under Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers had not lost back-to-back games under him since the start of the 2011 season.
With a two-game winning streak, nothing changes. The excitement of a visiting Seattle team? The answer is proper preparation – maintaining one of Pagano’s truest words, “process.”
“We got to stick to the process,” said Pagano. “We’ve got to stay right here. We’ve got to stay steady. We can’t ride the ebbs and flows, just like you can’t ride the ebbs and flows of a game.
“We’ll stick to the process. They’ll (players) come back Wednesday and we’ll start to introduce Seattle and get ready to play a good game on Sunday.”