INDIANAPOLIS – When Chuck Pagano joined the Colts, he said his team would have a style of play that resembled what was seen regularly in the AFC North.
While the Colts inched toward that identity over 18 games, they took a big leap in that direction with a 27-7 victory Sunday at San Francisco.
"It was assignment football, point-blank, period," said Robert Mathis on Colts Radio. "Coaches drew up the grand scheme, and we were able to do that. Our coaches put us in the right positions. We just pulled it off. It was an overall Colts organization win."
Indianapolis and San Francisco had not lost consecutive games under their respective head coaches and both were trying to reverse losing outcomes from a week ago.
It was the visiting Colts who pulled it off by shutting down a potent 49ers offense over the final 49 minutes in a game where Indianapolis never trailed.
The Colts now are 6-0 in games under Pagano when trying to rebound from a regular-season setback, and the Colts now own a 137-93 scoring margin in those triumphs.
It was the first 20-point road win by the team in nearly four seasons. The last time the Colts won by such a wide margin away from home was a 42-6 victory at St. Louis on October 25, 2009.
"That was a one-score game for a long, long time. Our guys stuck to the process," said Pagano on Colts Radio. "We talk about it all the time, '60 Minutes, one play at a time, all you got, don't judge.' What we added this week was, 'Consistency with your execution. Take care of the cents and the dollars will come.'
"I'm so proud of this team and coaching staff. The way they went out fought today, it was a heavyweight fight. We found a way to pull away at the end."
Indianapolis ran 12 more times than it passed. It played smart field position-wise and forced San Francisco to open nine-of-11 possessions at or inside its 20. It won the takeaway battle with a plus-two margin, and it sacked a troublesome quarterback three times.
The Colts held the 49ers to 115 rushing yards, with 78 of it coming on the first-quarter scoring drive. For the rest of the game, Indianapolis limited San Francisco to 37 yards on 17 rushes. Colin Kaepernick gained 20 yards on seven carries.
Playing without safety LaRon Landry and Pat Angerer, Jerrell Freeman stepped up with eight stops and a sack. Antoine Bethea had five solo tackles, including one on Kaepernick in the open field. Mathis had 1.5 sacks to push his career total to 96.0, and Pagano said the veteran leadership made the bounce-back from last Sunday's 24-20 loss to Miami possible.
"It goes back to our culture, environment and the mindset of the players," said Pagano. "The veteran leadership understands it's a marathon and not a sprint. They were very disappointed losing the home game to Miami. They went back to work and prepared.
"We talked about, 'Let's worry about us this week. We know the challenge ahead of us, but let's worry about us. Let's prepare and execute and stick to the process.' Hat's off to the veteran guys."
Mathis has participated in 106 other regular-season wins, many of which were tilted heavily by the offense. This one was different to him, vastly different.
"It's up there. I'd say in the top five, very electric" said Mathis. "(A) hard-fought (game) and I would say a very well-deserved win for our Colts team. Guys fought hard, offense, defense, special teams executed to a 'T.'
"It was extremely important. We had a slip up last week. We know we have like a six-game gauntlet coming up. Now, it's five games. We had to get this one back on the right track, and now just got to continue and stay rolling. To be a champ you have to beat the champs. They're the NFC champs, so they're a good measuring stick for our team."
Nothing says more about a team than the ability to respond. In the last two weeks, the Colts lost three offensive starters for the year, and they were playing Sunday without three additional starters. The offensive line had a rookie left guard (Hugh Thornton) and two other players (Mike McGlynn and Jeff Linkenbach) starting at different positions.
Indianapolis hung tough and finds itself tied for the division lead at 2-1.
"We kept the streak alive. This team hasn't lost back-to-back games yet," said Pagano. "To be able to come out here and do it against this outfit, I could not be more proud of the players and coaches."
NOTES – The Colts were plus-two in turnover ratio (2:0), and now are 6-0 in games under Pagano when not having a giveaway…the Colts are 44-3 since 1998 when playing turnover-free football…since 1998, the Colts are 87-9 in games with a plus turnover ratio, including a 36-2 record in games at plus-two…the Colts rushed for 179 yards and threw for 164, and the last time the Colts had more rushing yards than passing yards was on December 18, 2011 vs. Tennessee… Luck ended a streak of nine straight games with a touchdown pass, but the Colts pushed their record under Luck to 3-1 in games when he did not have a scoring toss…the Colts are 4-0 in games under Luck when having more rushing attempts than passing attempts…the Colts' 1-2 rushing punch of Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson had 32-of-39 club attempts, while Donald Brown had 25 yards…Luck (4-24, 1 TD) out-rushed Kaepernick (7-20).