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Chuck Pagano and Colts Full Steam Ahead for New England

Colts coaches got in a normal day of work Monday in preparing to meet New England in the Divisional Playoffs this weekend. After navigating through the foot-plus of snow that hit the Indianapolis area Sunday, it is full steam ahead for Chuck Pagano.





INDIANAPOLIS –The foot of snow that hit on Indianapolis Sunday did not stop Colts coaches from business as usual on Monday in getting ready to meet New England in Saturday's Divisional Playoffs at 8:15 p.m. 

"It was difficult getting in, a little bit of a challenge," said Pagano.  "We dug ourselves out, coaches helped each other out, gave rides.  We got everybody in.  We figured once we got here, we could hunker in.  Nobody's got anywhere to go.  It was a little bit of a challenge, but everything worked out well."

Players trickled in as possible on an off-day getting in lifts, treatment or a chat with position coaches.

One player who trickled in was veteran wide receiver Deion Branch, a local resident who agreed to contract terms to extend his career.

Branch (518 receptions, 6,644 yards, 39 TDs) started 111-of-140 games with New England (2002-05, 11-12) and Seattle (2006-09).  The two-time Super Bowl winner was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX.  Branch also led all receivers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

"He's a proven guy who played at a high level in this league.  I don't see how it can hurt you," said Pagano.  "It made sense to bring him on board.  He's a smart guy who's been in different systems, a West Coast system in Seattle.  Matt (Hasselbeck) has some familiarity with him. 

"I think it will be a seamless transition.  Time will tell.  From a terminology standpoint, he's probably run the concepts we've run.  It's a matter of becoming familiar with play calls and terminology."

Regarding perceptions Branch was added for contributions beyond the field, Pagano turned the attention to the field.

"Every decision we make is what's best for this team and what gives us the best chance to win.  We think we have one heck of a player," said Pagano.

Branch's addition coincided with Indianapolis elevating receiver Josh Lenz from the practice squad and placing Greg Toler (groin) and Fili Moala (knee) on injured reserve. 

The precautions were taken also because Darrius Heyward-Bey hurt a hamstring against Kansas City, and his Saturday status is in question.

Branch had worked out with the club during season without any action being taken.

Pagano will be making his first appearance in New England as a head coach.  When the Colts fell last November, 59-24, Pagano still was battling leukemia.

It will come against a team with whom he is well acquainted.  Just a couple of days prior to joining the Colts in January 2012, Pagano was Baltimore's defensive coordinator in a 23-20 last-minute loss to New England in the AFC Championship game. 

With Baltimore, he endured a 27-21 regular-season setback at New England in 2009 before the Ravens exacted revenge in the playoffs there with a 33-14 victory.

Pagano's first playoff win came last Saturday over Kansas City, 45-44, and veteran coach Andy Reid.  Armed with that result, Pagano meets Bill Belichick.  Belichick has 18 playoff wins to rank third in history behind Tom Landry (20) and Don Shula (19).

"He's one of the best in the business, and his record obviously speaks for itself," said Pagano. "He does a tremendous job with his football team week in and week out, season after season.

"We do a lot of (analysis) in the offseason, and you're always going to look at the best of the best.  We spent a good amount of time studying what they do not only on defense but all three phases."

The game will be in Belichick's backyard, Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots have earned a 91-18 overall record since 2002, 10-3 in the playoffs.

The Patriots have earned a record-tying fourth straight season with a playoff bye, and they look to up their .778 post-season winning percentage which ranks third in history.

The losses of Toler and Moala will be blows for the Colts.  Veterans Darius Butler and Cassius Vaughn started in Toler's absence.  Pagano said any concerns for the health of the unit are unfounded.

"It's fine.  Everybody this time of year is banged up," said Pagano. "Vontae (Davis) came out of the game fine.  Darius (Butler) is beat up.  They'll get themselves back and again, we're in the playoffs. There is no tomorrow.  You win or you go home.

"There's a lot of that stuff that factors in to getting healthy and getting your body right.  You come this far and sacrifice what they've sacrificed at this point, it would take something major to keep those guys out."

PLAYOFF BONANZA –Three of four Wild Card games were decided by three points or fewer, only the second time in postseason history in which three teams won by three points or fewer in the same weekend (also 2006 Divisional).

The four games averaged 34.7 million viewers making it the most-watched Wild Card weekend. For the fourth consecutive season, the four Wild Card Playoff games averaged more than 30 million viewers. 

The four games were also the four most-watched shows on television last week.  The Colts-Chiefs game drew nearly 28 million viewers.

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