INDIANAPOLIS --- Most expect Sunday's AFC South showdown between the Colts and Texans to be a battle, if not a war, including Chuck Pagano. The kind of football game that brings back memories of NFL yesteryear, where both teams leave the field bruised and battered, with the team holding off complete exhaustion the longest being declared the victor.
Sounds like a classic championship boxing match...which is perhaps why Chuck Pagano showed his team clips of one of the most epic boxing trilogies of the 21st century:
Arturo "Thunder" Gatti vs. "Irish" Micky Ward and their three epic fights which also inspired the major motion picture The Fighter with Mark Wahlberg.
In the movie, based on Ward's story, he's down and out but goes on an unlikely journey to the world light welterweight title. In real life, Ward and Gatti fought three times, all vicious battles, with Ward winning the first and Gatti winning the second and third fights. The fights were so brutal, both ended up in the trauma unit after the final bell.
"So now what? What are you going to do?" Pagano said he told his team this week, showing Ward and Gatti trade blows. "Gotta answer."
The 9th round of the first fight between Gatti and Ward has been called the "round of the century" and one Pagano showed the Colts:
"Get knocked down nine times, get up a 10th time," Colts pass rusher Robert Mathis said of Pagano's message this week. "Keep fighting. It's never over. There's always a puncher's chance."
But what about Matt Hasselbeck playing through a rib injury? It's an injury that Hasselbeck said he thought at the beginning of the week would keep him sidelined until he practiced Thursday.
Pagano recalled another classic episode of the Gatti-Ward fights, when in the 4th round of the 3rd fight, Gatti broke his hand. That allowed Ward to turn it into another street fight, but Gatti endured to win the decisive fight in this trilogy, a fight that would be called the fight of the year.
"'What do you want me to do?' That's what I told him," said Pagano. "Gatti came to the corner in the 4th round, broke his hand on Ward's hip, said, 'I think my hand's broke.' The trainer said, 'What do you want me to do?' He goes, 'I guess I'll keep fighting.' 'Okay. Go finish the fight.' So that's what we told (Hasselbeck). 'What do you want me to do, man? So what? Now what?'"
So what does that mean for Hasselbeck and the Colts Sunday against the Texans?
"We're going to take care of (Hasselbeck)," said Pagano. "He's a warrior. He's a tough S-O-you know what. He's going to go play well, really good football, and we're going to keep his butt clean, protect our butts off for him."
The Colts have reached the championship rounds. The final bell is approaching. They are hurt. They are tired. But they are still swinging.