ATLANTA – In the game's most critical plays on Sunday afternoon, the Colts were turning to all 46 men they dressed.
When left tackle Antony Castonzo exited on the game's final drive due to a knee sprain, his first missed snaps due to injury since 2011, Lance Louis entered (without a timeout being called)---thus re-shifting three offensive linemen around.
What followed in Castonzo's absence? Several clock eating plays with the line holding its ground on Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal.
The defense had to do its own reaching deep into the depth chart in the fourth quarter.
There would be no shadowing from Vontae Davis late on Sunday as a right hamstring injury sent the Pro Bowler to the sideline. Enter rookie D'Joun Smith, who was playing his first ever NFL defensive snaps, in what was also his rookie debut.
Smith and the secondary controlled the air traffic throughout Davis' absence---allowing just two first downs over the Falcons' final 16 plays.
"Next man up" is about as cliché as it gets in the game of football.
On Sunday, the Colts lived it.
"That's the NFL," Darius Butler, who was a part of that timely fourth-quarter defense, said after the 24-21 victory. "You never know when your number is going to be called. It could be the first play or the last drive to win the game.
"We needed everybody on that sideline to get the win."
Chuck Pagano talked after Sunday's win how the keys he tried to convey in the week were "win your box" (individual plays) and "keep throwing haymakers."
The "haymakers" from the Colts on Sunday began with the visitors having to absorb some major body blows, before settling in to deliver their own shots.
Some punches thrown from the Colts connected with more ferocity than others.
After the 60-minute bout, it was Pagano rifling game balls around the winning, visiting locker room to a bunch of fighters who always seem to take his words to heart.
"We didn't want to come in here and say, 'If I had just done this, if I had just done that, if I had thrown just one more left hook we could have won this football game,'" Pagano said after watching his team win their fifth game of the season.
"We just keep pounding the same mantra home. That's who we are, and this team knows how to finish. They know how to fight, and they know how to keep swinging and to keep playing a 60-minute ballgame.
"You just play hard. The play doesn't care who makes it, you just play hard."