INDIANAPOLIS –"Momentum" was a key word around the Colts heading into Sunday's game with Houston.
After one of the season's best performances of the year, Head Coach Chuck Pagano lauded the "team" nature of a victory that perpetuated the desired momentum heading into the playoffs.
"It was a great team victory for us," said Pagano. "We talk about wanting to play your best football at the end of the season. You'd love to go into the playoffs with momentum.
"We talked at great length about that this past week as a team. Winning five of our last six games, playing the way we played yesterday, it was a great, great team victory in all three phases."
Indianapolis started the game with a 13-play drive that consumed seven minutes in producing seven points. The Colts ended the game with a 15-play crusade that milked the final 9:46 off the clock.
After losing a 14-6 halftime lead by yielding 10 third-quarter points, Deji Karim bolted 101 yards with a kickoff, erasing the team's only deficit in 12 seconds. Later, Luck hit T.Y. Hilton on a 70-yard scoring pass on third-and-23, while Jamaal Westerman, Lawrence Guy and Clifton Geathers had sacks.
The effort came though Indianapolis could not improve its playoff seeding. It came in facing a team fighting to keep its top seeding and with a roster boasting eight Pro Bowl selections.
When it was over, the Texans were pushed into the Wild Card weekend along with Cincinnati, Baltimore and the Colts.
"We got production from guys that I still don't know," said Pagano. "They all think their first name's 'Kid.' (Jamaal) Westerman comes off the field after a sack and I go, 'Hey, nice job, kid.' A bunch of them think their first name's 'Kid' and answer to it quite easily. The production in all three phases was fantastic.
"I'll tell you what speaks to the character of this football team and our veteran leadership, I've been around a lot of teams with really nothing to play for that at that point and had decided to mail it in, if you will, but not this crew. That's a really good football team that came in here. It just speaks to the character and resiliency of our team and staff. It's just what they've been doing this whole season."
The Colts travel to Baltimore on Sunday to meet the Ravens for the third time in seven post-seasons. It is a return for Pagano to see a team for whom he worked for four seasons.
The Colts get there with wins in nine of their last 11 games, including five of the last six. Baltimore won the AFC North at 10-6, earning a 6-2 mark at home, but dropping four of its last five games.
On the Ravens' staff is offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who served from 2009-11 as the Colts' head coach. Caldwell was on the Indianapolis staff from 2002-11, serving a few years as assistant head coach before succeeding Tony Dungy.
The Colts won in Baltimore in the playoffs after the 2006 season, while winning in Indianapolis in the Divisional Playoffs after the 2009 season under Caldwell.
PAGANO LAUDS ARIANS – On a day where a number of teams dismissed coaches, Pagano said no team to his knowledge had approached the Colts about Bruce Arians, who directed Indianapolis to a 9-3 mark as an interim coach.
"I would say he's earned any phone call, he's earned that right," said Pagano. "Let me just say this, we do not want to lose Bruce Arians. We know what he is and what he means to this organization and to this team.
"If you're interested in a guy, you're getting a guy that's a great leader, a great football coach, a great man and if that happened, you'd be getting a great football coach. Certainly, we don't want to lose Bruce, we can't lose Bruce. We'll just cross that bridge when it comes."