INDIANAPOLIS – Typically when one party points a finger at another, it is a negative thing.
Not in Indianapolis at 6-2. When asked why his team is so resilient with three comeback wins in 2013 and 10 in the last 24 games, Chuck Pagano fingers his players. The trouble is, they point theirs back at him.
"Working around here, it starts with our head coach," said Gosder Cherilus. "He brings a whole bunch of winners in here, and he has us thinking that way. The whole world can tell you you're down. If you don't ever believe you're down, you're not down. As long as there is time left on the clock, you always have a chance."
Cherilus was on the other end of that equation last year when Pagano's Colts met Detroit. Cherilus watched as Indianapolis zipped to touchdown drives of 85 and 75 yards in the last 2:39 to post a 35-33 win, and the deciding score came as the last second ticked off the clock.
It was Pagano's team, though he was back in Indianapolis successfully battling leukemia – an illness that kept him away for 12 contests, although he appeared twice at home games in very inspirational moments.
"Our thing is if Coach (Pagano) didn't use his situation as an excuse last year, what do we have to lean on as an excuse not to get the job done? Everybody is expected to do what he's supposed to do," said Robert Mathis when asked how the Colts have remained so potent in adverse situations.
The Detroit win was the second time the Colts had wiped out a double-digit deficit to win. This past Sunday at Houston, they rallied for a second time from a 21-3 halftime deficit to win, 27-24.
The first time they did it was against Green Bay in October 2012, Pagano's first game away while ill. Cherilus personally did not witness Pagano's pugnacious, never-stop manner as a competitor until this year.
"It starts with the head coach. That's his mentality," said Cherilus. "He instills in us and makes us believe. The new guys and old guys, we're believing. That's what we're all doing."
Upon his hiring, Pagano's first order of business was to build a team that would thrive during adversity.
"I credit the players and the leadership in the locker room," said Pagano. "When we came in as a staff, we decided, 'This is the environment we want, this is the culture we're going to try to create, this is the process we're going to stick to, how we're going to practice, how we're going to meet, how we're going to do things.'
"I credit the players from day one for buying into that and never wavering, regardless of the circumstances. They've all bought into (that mindset). It's because of the type of people, the men, the leadership that we have in the locker room."
The Colts are 17-7 since Pagano's arrival, one of the league's top marks. Indianapolis ranks only behind Denver (20-4), New England (19-6), Seattle (19-6) and San Francisco (17-6). The Colts have beaten the Broncos, Seahawks and 49ers this season.
The success has come with only 12 current active players who preceded the arrival of Pagano and Ryan Grigson. It was that duo who set about paving the future with key "pillar" returnees and the specific type of prospects they could attract.
"It started with guys like Robert (Mathis), Reggie (Wayne), Antoine (Bethea) and Adam (Vinatieri) and those veteran leaders kind of led the charge from day one," said Pagano, "didn't waver on what we were going to try to get done, how we were going to try get it done, how we were going to accomplish things and how we were going to go about our business on a daily basis. I credit the players."
Mathis adopted the charge and points ahead.
"Guys are expected to do a job. That's why you're here. They carry those orders out," said Mathis. "We have a young team that has bought in. They're completely sold out for the cause.
"The truth of the matter (is) we don't know any better. We just know to keep fighting, keep swinging and, hopefully, you'll connect and get that knockout punch."
WRONG REVERSAL – Pagano confirmed when asked about the replay reversal at Houston that negated a fumbled kickoff return recovered by the Colts, that the NFL agreed the on-field call should not have been overturned.
PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate: NT-Josh Chapman (knee), CB-Josh Gordy (groin), S-Delano Howell (neck), LB-Robert Mathis (shoulder), RB-Trent Richardson (ankle), G-Hugh Thornton (calf), CB-Greg Toler (groin); Full Participation: Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring), LB-Cam Johnson (knee).
Chapman is battling a bone bruise and will be questionable for the week.