INDIANAPOLIS –Heading into the Wild Card Playoffs, Chuck Pagano was asked if with the 20th-ranked rushing offense and the 26th-ranked defense stopping the run if he had built the kind of team he wanted when he was first hired.
In his introductory press conference, Pagano had said Indianapolis would be fashioned in the likeness of Baltimore and Pittsburgh – teams known for pounding the ball and being stingy defensively in the same regard – and he did not miss a beat.
"If you just go by numbers, you could argue that we're not there yet. We'll never change that mindset," said Pagano. "Until they run me out of here, that'll be our mantra."
With eight playoff games in the books, the approach espoused by Pagano is holding firm.
"(In) our game, New England rushed 46 times. In all three other (divisional) games, the winner(s) all rushed for 30 times and averaged (144.3) yards," said Pagano. "The losing teams averaged 88 yards rushing. So, will we ever change? No."
Prior to playing Kansas City, Pagano and many players said the 'one-and-done' playoff contests usually are determined in the trenches.
That has been the case with the playoff field being narrowed from 12 to four teams.
Only Kansas City (150 yards) in the Wild Card round lost with a higher rushing total than the winner (Colts, 100).
Leading rusher Jamaal Charles exited after six plays with an injury, and Kansas City had to divert a bit when the player that touched the ball on 32 percent of the season's offensive snaps departed.
The Chiefs' game plan was obvious until then. Charles already had gained 18 yards on three carries.
The Colts rushed for a 5.0 average but with a 38-10 third-quarter deficit, Indianapolis had to morph from its original plan in trying to catch up. The Colts had 46 pass calls on 65 plays.
Wild Card winners had a 162.0 rushing average, while San Diego (4.9) was the lone team without a five-yard average. Losing teams ran for a 116.8 average.
Green Bay and Kansas City are the only teams in the eight playoff games completed to have more rushing attempts than a winning opponent.
Team Rushing Totals 2014 Playoffs
45-44 Wild Card
26-24 Wild Card
27-10 Wild Card
23-20 Wild Card
While New England battered the Colts with a 5.1 average and six scores on 46 rushes, Seattle rolled to 174 yards on New Orleans and Denver (133) doubled the total produced by San Diego (65).
Former Steelers coach and current network studio voice Bill Cowher noted on Sunday how every team that advanced in the playoffs had thrived on the ground. Cowher once marched to the same beat held now by Pagano.
"I don't think it's ever more prevalent, the farther you get in the playoffs, you have to be able to run the football and stop the run," said Pagano, who has reached each round of the AFC post-season in the last three years. "I think the statistics alone from this past weekend are enough to continue to make me be a believer."
Pagano was quick to point out teams need productive passing offenses and that the Colts are well-equipped to do so.
He also said part of what hindered the Colts' running game this year were components being taken from the attack.
"There's going to be circumstances. You're going to lose guys," said Pagano. "When we lost a starting guard, a starting tight end, a couple starting running backs, a starting receiver, you have to make adjustments.
"I think our coaches and players did a tremendous job of adapting and utilizing what we had to give us the best chance to win."
Opening the season, Indianapolis had a four-game streak with at least 25 rushes and a 4.5 average, a first in the team's 30 local seasons.
Seven times the team topped a 4.5 average, and it opened the year with five straight 100-plus games, a first for the Colts since 1988.
The Colts will probe smartly with the passing game with one of the game's brightest stars at the controls, but Pagano's bedrock approach endures.
"There's times when we've had to run the ball to close out games, we're able to do that. History will tell you that," said Pagano. "It all starts up front – being able to run the ball and stop the run.
"Whether we get the numbers we want week in and week out, we're not going to change from a philosophical standpoint."