INDIANAPOLIS –When Chuck Pagano joined the Colts, one thing was made clear – the use of a certain word strictly was forbidden.
Pagano playfully has added something else to banned list of words.
"We're done talking about it," said Pagano of slow starts. "When we first got here, we weren't allowed to use the 'R'-word ('rebuild'). Now we're not ever talking about what you're talking about anymore.
"It's a self-fulfilling prophecy now. It's all we've talked about. I'm to the point now where we might as well just put 14 on the board before we ever kick the (ball) off and just have the guys look up there and say, 'Oh, (no), we're down 14, we better get going.' "
Indianapolis erased 14-0 and 17-3 Tennessee leads in winning, 30-27, thus putting Pagano in a jesting mode made possible by his coaches and players coming back from another deficit.
At 7-3 and with a three-game AFC South lead, Indianapolis has three final-quarter/overtime winning drives this year and has endured a combined halftime deficit of 69-9 in the last three games (two wins).
The Colts scored 17 points in a 10-minute span Thursday at Tennessee just prior to and after halftime. Indianapolis ran for 137 yards (99 in the second half), had four 10-plus-play drives and rushed for 10 first downs after having none in a 38-8 home loss five days earlier to St. Louis.
Pagano praised his staff for halftime adjustments that limited Tennessee to touchdowns on their first two and final possessions while his team roared to life and a 30-20 lead.
Part of the success was staying true to the rushing attack that sputtered to 18 yards against the Rams.
Donald Brown rushed for 80 yards and two scores, owning a 5.7 average that nearly matches his 5.9 seasonal mark in what has been very productive year.
"He's playing really well, running hard, hitting the hole, breaking tackles, yards after contact," said Pagano. "He's a dynamic guy, can take it the distance when he gets loose. He's playing exceptionally well."
Pagano said Brown and Trent Richardson will continue to share duties in the 1-2 rushing approach that earlier this year included Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Richardson holds a 2.8 rushing average in eight games with the club, but any eyebrows curled outside the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center are not found inside it.
"Trent's numbers are going to come. He's a good back," said Pagano. "He just got here. He hasn't been here as long as other guys, and I'm not making any excuses for him.
"We're going to stay patient, and he's going to have a breakout game. His yards will come."
HALFTIME LOCKER ROOM – Down 17-6 at halftime and before returning to the field, Andrew Luck addressed the team about playing sharply.
While the content was healthy, the degree to which he spoke is curious.
"He had fire and passion with his talk. He had some powerful words behind it," said Anthony Castonzo. "There was some frustration. He wanted to make sure we came back and won this thing."
Said college teammate Coby Fleener, "I wouldn't call it a speech so much as just kind of an excited showing of emotion and a team breakdown, like when you say, 'One, two, three, Colts.' I wouldn't say it was a 'Win One for the Gipper,' or anything like that."
A playful, veteran, winning head coach chuckled and made light of the matter.
"I read (about) it. I was in the training room getting my heart checked, so I didn't even hear it (laughs)," said Pagano. "Whatever he did, I'm glad he did it. They (doctors) had the defibs (defibrillator) on me."
KEEPING COMPOSURE – A three-penalty drive in the second quarter that included an unnecessary roughness call on Erik Walden, who ripped the helmet off a Titans player and headbutted him, merited concern from Pagano.
"You got to keep your cool. We talked about it as soon as they got off the field," said Pagano. "We (said), 'You cannot retaliate. You can't pull guys' hats off. You can't take swings. You got to keep your composure, no matter what the situation.' He knows that. Erik's a grown man, he's accountable and he understands that. I'm sure something obviously is going to come down with the league."
Pagano is a stickler for penalty avoidance. Indianapolis entered week 11 as the least penalized team in terms of infractions and yards.
INJURY UPDATE – Pagano said Darrius Heyward-Bey's ankle injury is not serious, and he will be day-to-day. Heyward-Bey tried to go in the second half at Tennessee, but could not function. Pagano is hopeful that defensive backs Greg Toler, Josh Gordy and Delano Howell can return against Arizona.