INDIANAPOLIS –At halftime on Sunday against Buffalo, Indianapolis had scored a touchdown on special teams.
The lone offensive touchdown was produced late in the third quarter and after Buffalo cut the score to 20-13 in the final period, Indianapolis made it stand with its defense and by playing keep-away for the game's final three minutes.
It was a full-roster performance in a 20-13 victory that moved the Colts to 7-4. It was a win that typified the mantra of Head Coach Chuck Pagano about things being for, "The team, the team, the team."
"That's what was preached at halftime, 'Team, team. Go out there and complete this game. We did a good job in the first half, now go out there and do an even better job in the second half.' That's how you build a team," said defensive end Cory Redding.
For the better part of 12 seasons, Indianapolis feasted on glitzy, high-wire victories that sometimes defied logic.
This year, the Colts are 5-1 at home and have displayed the ability to produce close wins. Four times in 2012, Indianapolis has won in the fourth quarter or overtime.
On Sunday, a punt return was the lone touchdown over the first 30 minutes, while Adam Vinatieri added two field goals.
The Colts moved to a 20-6 advantage in the third quarter on a 15-play, 87-yard drive that reached paydirt when quarterback Andrew Luck (20-of-37 passing for 240 yards) hit wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on an eight-yard scoring play.
The Colts were unable to shake Buffalo and when the Bills scored on a one-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Lee Smith with 11:30 to go, it meant another win would have to be earned late.
Safety Tom Zbikowski swiped a Fitzpatrick pass one possession later, but fumbled the return. The Bills were shut down by the Indianapolis defense at midfield and punted to the Colts' five with 3:22 left.
From there, the offense ground out two first downs to reach the two-minute warning, then got another on a pass interference penalty to ice the game.
"No question (it was gritty). You can say it was ugly, but there's nothing more beautiful than a win," said guard Joe Reitz. "It's tough to win in this league, no matter who you're playing, no matter if you're at home or on the road. We are happy to get out with a win."
The win put Indianapolis at 7-4, an improvement of seven games from this time last year, and it keeps the team firmly in the AFC playoff hunt.
"It's all about winning. We had our hands full," said interim head coach Bruce Arians. "It's not going to get easier. We'll take every 'W,' and I think our guys earned this one.
"It was a beautiful win. To be able take the ball off the goal-line after the defensive stand was big, and our special teams contributed. Offensively, we moved it. We wanted to score before the half, but we had a busted assignment (that led to a field goal). Little things were hurting us in the first half that didn't hurt us in the second half. We played quality football. Buffalo's quite a football team. I don't care about their record. As long we have more points, they are beautiful."
Safety Antoine Bethea is one of the club's most seasoned veterans, and he has seen many types of wins since he joined Indianapolis in 2006.
Bethea will take a victory however it comes, and this year wins have come in the clutch.
"A win is a win. We'll take them how they come," said Bethea. "Before, we used to blow teams out. These win are as good as well.
"Come playoff time, there are not going to be any blowouts. It's going to be tough. It's going to be 60 minutes. It shows resiliency from our team on how we're winning these games."