INDIANAPOLIS –Chuck Pagano got home Saturday night a spent person, just like everyone associated with the Colts.
He did not really need an external audit to ensure the Colts had just beaten Kansas City 45-44 with a 28-point comeback, but he chose one.
"You get out of there with a victory, go home, sit on the couch, turn the TV on and find out that it did happen. It is real," said Pagano. "Everybody is whipped, mentally and physically."
Pagano's Colts won a game with a minus-three turnover ratio, allowing 17 points off miscues. Indianapolis surrendered four touchdowns and a field goal on its first five drives, then allowed another touchdown to start the second half.
Kansas City converted six-of-eight third-downs in the opening half, including touchdown passes of six and 79 yards for a 31-10 lead.
According to ESPN, the Colts had only a 3.6 percent chance to win when they trailed by 21 points at the half and after Andrew Luck's interception to open the third quarter, that percent dipped to 0.9 when the Chiefs upped their lead to 38-10.
It was then that Luck directed touchdown drives of 80, 41, 80, 90 and 80, punctuating three with scoring tosses and running in a fumble by Donald Brown.
Luck was 17-of-24 passing in the second half for 324 yards and three scores, and a coach who had seen him pull of 10 prior comeback wins and play with a talent beyond his two seasons saw something else.
"I don't know what level it is, but he sure went to another one yesterday," said Pagano. "He's a guy that is able to put things behind him in a hurry. The guy is just strong-minded that way."
Indianapolis has progressed beyond the round where it fell last year. Pagano saw distinct areas of concern after the Colts had played well in all phases in winning their last three games.
As stakes get higher, the play must improve, but Pagano sees it a manageable matter.
"Obviously things are heightened as you move on in the tournament," said Pagano. "When you look at it, it's like any game.
"Everything that's on that tape is correctable. We can do a lot of things better. We'll go back to work and try to get better."
Speaking Sunday before the Cincinnati-San Diego game, Pagano was asked about playing either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
"Either way it's a huge undertaking, a huge challenge, two of the best that ever played the game," said Pagano. "We've faced both. We know both. They're both winners (and) got Super Bowl rings to prove it."
With San Diego's*27-10 *win, Indianapolis will be off to New England.
In meeting the Patriots next Saturday at 8:15 p.m. (ET), the Colts will renew a post-season rivalry that has had these franchises battling in 2003, 2004 and 2006. New England beat the Colts in the conference championship match in 2003, then the Colts returned the favor in 2006.
Luck will be going up against New England for a second time. In a 59-24 setback last November in Foxborough, Luck hit 27-of-50 passes for 334 yards and two touchdowns.
His counterpart, Tom Brady, has a 17-7 career post-season mark, the most playoff wins ever by a starting quarterback. Brady's .708 winning percentage trails only Hall-of-Famers Terry Bradshaw (.737, 14-5) and Troy Aikman (.733, 11-4), and Brady is one of four quarterbacks to win at least three Super Bowls (4, Bradshaw and Joe Montana; 3, Aikman and Brady).
Brady guided New England to the AFC's second seed at 12-4. The Patriots earned a 10th division title since 2002 realignment, the most to the Colts' eight.
Indianapolis has 11 playoff berths in that span to the Patriots' 10. The franchises have combined for the two-best regular-season records since 1999 (171-69, New England; 162-78, Colts).
INJURY UPDATE – Pagano had no updates on three players hurt Saturday – Greg Toler (groin), LaRon Landry (concussion), Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring). Toler missed a large portion of the season with his injury, but started against Kansas City. "Tough kid, (who) didn't want to let his teammates down," said Pagano of Toler. "He aggravated that injury. It's a shame because he's worked his tail off to try to get back and help this team. Hopefully we'll still have him available."
Pagano said the decision to sit Cassius Vaughn, who was healthy, was for a roster management issue concerning health on the defensive line. With a number of linemen nicked up, Vaughn was seated in a tough decision.
TV WINNER – The Colts-KC game drew 17.2/31 overnight numbers, the best Saturday afternoon AFC Wild Card game in 15 years. The telecast peaked with a 21.3/36 overnight rating for the exciting conclusion from 7:30-8 p.m. With New Orleans' 26-24 victory at Philadelphia, having two playoff games decided by two points-or-less on the same day was a first in NFL post-season history. The games drew a combined 18.7 overnight rating and 32 share, up 9% from last year and ranking as the second-best Wild Card Saturday since 2002.