INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts have been many things this season, and resilient seems the most apt way to label the team.
Four times this year the team has lost, and it followed each setback with a victory, once doing so with a four-game streak.
Double-digit losses at Chicago (41-21), the New York Jets (35-9) and New England (59-24) were followed with victories. The other loss, 22-17 to Jacksonville on an 80-yard, final-minute touchdown pass just seconds after having taken the lead, forced the Colts to endure a bye week in remembering the defeat.
The Jacksonville setback corresponded with the news days later of Head Coach Chuck Pagano having contracted leukemia. The fighting spirit Pagano is showing in countering the illness is evident readily in how his team is waging its 60-minute battles.
The Colts moved to 7-4 yesterday with a 20-13 victory over Buffalo. What many expected to be a wild offensive affair ended up the opposite.
The Colts gained 312 net yards, their third-lowest total of 2012, while allowing a season-low 304 yards. The game produced but two offensive touchdowns and quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Ryan Fitzpatrick did not reach their seasonal completion percentages. Additionally, the Colts had their lowest rushing total since the loss at New York.
The one touchdown drive for Indianapolis came early in the second half, and it was a 15-play, 87-yard march that produced six first downs and took eight minutes off the clock.
A day of fits and starts was augmented by special teams play when rookie T.Y. Hilton cut loose with a 75-yard scoring punt return barely five minutes into the game. It gave the Colts a lead they would hold throughout the contest.
An eventual 14-point cushion was cut in half before the defense produced a late stop and the offense milked the final 3:22 off the clock on a drive that started from its five-yard line.
Pagano instilled from the outset the notion that nothing counted more than the team itself, and yesterday's victory was one achieved by the team.
"You know in the beginning when this thing was put together, Chuck (Pagano) built everything on team," said Arians. "I think that was a team victory right there. All phases, our special teams showed up huge. I thought they won the game for us. Not only with the return for the touchdown and the field position they created, but how well they covered.
"We asked Pat (McAfee) to have his best game ever as a kicker and he really contributed. Offensively, we were able to put a drive together and finish one there at the end of the third quarter, which I thought was a solid drive. At the end of the game, to be able to ice it out running and throwing (was important). I couldn't be prouder of the football team because Chuck was here and the goal was to make him smile when he left, and I'm sure he's up there smiling."
Pagano was on hand to watch his team stay quite relevant in the AFC playoff hunt. He emerged from a suite in the fourth quarter to wave to the fans and thank them for their support during his battle.
As the club heads into the final five-game stretch, it stands as one of five AFC teams with seven or more victories. Division leaders are New England (8-3), Houston (10-1), Baltimore (9-2) and Denver (8-3). Indianapolis is the lone team with seven wins, and the Colts are followed by Pittsburgh and Cincinnati at 6-5. Miami is the only team at 5-6, and the Colts own a head-to-head victory over the Dolphins.
Indianapolis has much more at stake than it did last year at this time when it was 0-11. As the season dwindles, there still is much more that needs to be done.
"We understand the position we're in, but again, nothing has been accomplished yet," said Luck. "(It's) on to the next one."
Arians shares the sentiment and appreciates the team's position, but the emphasis is not to watch the scoreboard involving other teams.
"It's just one game at a time. We're going to add them up and see where we stand. I know we have seven wins and not too many teams do. We've got a big, big challenge in Detroit against a high-powered offense and another great front four. We'll go back to work."