INDIANAPOLIS – Team.
That word has been alive since Head Coach Chuck Pagano took the job back in January and was never more prominent than down the stretch on Sunday at Kansas City.
There was Darius Butler, who was signed the same week that Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, recording his second interception return for a touchdown and beginning the scoring on Sunday.
There was the Colts defense, riddled by injuries and making a stand early in the fourth quarter when momentum squarely was with the home team.
There was No. 1 pick Andrew Luck, who jumped off the bench upon watching the defense make its stand, eager to lead another game-winning drive despite missing on 10 straight passes during the second half.
There was All-Pro receiver Reggie Wayne, who is perhaps the closest of all Colts with Pagano, hauling in the touchdown that sent Indianapolis back to the postseason.
Finally, there was Bruce Arians dancing on the sidelines knowing that he likely will walk into the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Monday morning having carried out a promise he made to his close friend nearly three months ago.
"I can't say enough about our guys in that locker room. Mission accomplished," Arians said following the Colts' 20-13 win.
"We set out to extend this season for Chuck and now that he can come back in the flow of things at his pace, (it) means the world to me. That was the job that was asked of me, and our football team delivered it."
In the Colts' 10-5 record, nine of those victories came in one-possession games and once again on Sunday it was every unit that played a part.
Having lost a 10-point halftime lead, the Colts offense was in a funk with Luck misfiring on 10 consecutive throws.
The defense was reeling, with the Chiefs rushing attack beginning to wear down a depleted line.
Everything changed with 12:00 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Facing a first-and-10 at their own 36-yard line, Indianapolis stuffed the Chiefs on four straight running plays. The players making the stops ranged from Pro Bowlers in Antoine Bethea and Robert Mathis, to those who embody the "Next Man Up" mantra in Martin Tevaseu and Lawrence Guy.
When the chains revealed a turnover on downs, the members of the Colts offense greeted their teammates knowing it was time to capitalize.
"We had to help our defense out," Luck said. "They had been playing their butts off all day, and it was our turn to sort of carry the baton."
Luck engineered a 13-play, 73-yard drive that included six straight completions, the last of which was to Wayne in the back of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.
It was Wayne who spearheaded a comeback victory in the first game without Pagano back on Oct. 7 against Green Bay and on Sunday, there was the 12-year veteran again putting the finishing touches on hopefully the final game without his head coach.
"It was great to see Reggie make that last touchdown catch," Luck said. "He's unbelievable. He's our team leader. He's our offensive leader, and it's a privilege to play with him."
From Adam Vinatieri's two field goals, to the defense forcing three turnovers and an offense putting together its seventh fourth-quarter comeback, the term "team" had never fit a game more perfectly.
That team could get its head coach back on Monday basking in the glory of a spot in the postseason and with their leader guiding them through the playoffs.
"It's hard to get to the playoffs, but we wanted to do this for Chuck," said Butler, who spent just two practices with Pagano before the head coach was diagnosed with leukemia. "We will be happy to get him back, but now we look forward to another challenge."