INDIANAPOLIS –The No. 5 seed was set in stone.
What was there to play for with the Indianapolis Colts having their playoff seed clinched prior to the regular season finale against the Houston Texans?
How about Chuck Pagano returning from his battle with leukemia to lead the Colts onto the field?
"It was like a rock star coming out of the tunnel, with all the cameras flashing when he walked out," said quarterback Andrew Luck. "That was sort of a lift he gave us. It was energy. Just to have his physical presence and see him on the sideline was great."
Indianapolis led for nearly the entire afternoon before Houston ran off 10 points to start the second half and took a 16-14 lead with 5:22 to go in the third quarter.
That lead only lasted for 12 seconds as kick returner Deji Karim, who was signed three weeks earlier, took the ensuing kickoff and went 101 yards, untouched, into the end zone for the touchdown.
"He ignited us," Pagano said of Karim.
"We said at half, 'Just play hard. I don't know when your opportunity is going to come. Just play hard every snap, 60 minutes, one play at a time, all you got. When the opportunity is there, take advantage of it,'"
The Colts were not done though, needing to pad a lead in order to avoid their eighth straight one possession home contest.
With Indianapolis leading 21-16 early in the fourth quarter and facing a third-and-23, T.Y. Hilton struck again.
Hilton got behind the Texans secondary and Luck found him in stride for a 70-yard touchdown, sealing the Colts 28-16 season finale victory.
"It was a straight up seam route," Hilton said. "The linebacker buzzed me. I looked up and I was running wide open. Andrew made a beautiful throw."
"(There was) a lot of emotion. We didn't want to let Coach Pagano down."
OFFENSIVE HIGHLIGHT:The Colts took over at 9:46 in the fourth quarter and never relinquished the ball again.
Behind a 15-play, 63-yard drive, the Colts ran out the rest of the clock with 15 runs and the lone pass producing a first down.
DEFENSIVE HIGHLIGHT:Continuing a strong end to the 2012 season, Vontae Davis recorded two interceptions against the Texans.
His first came in the second quarter with Davis picking off Houston quarterback Matt Schaub, a turnover that led the Colts to a 14-6 halftime.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:Chuck Pagano was back at the podium in the postgame media room and he put into words what it felt like to be back on the home sideline.
"This meant the world to me. This team, what transpired out there (is special)," said Pagano. "There's kind of been a mantra from day one with this team. They refused to live in circumstance, they've lived in vision. They believe, they have faith, they have trust. They love one another. What they've done over the course of the last 12 games, to watch them today go out and do what they did (was pleasing)."
INTERESTING FACT:The Colts finished the season 7-1 at home, rattling off their final six games at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Indianapolis 28-16 victory over the Texans marked the first Colts home game that was not decided by one possession in 2012.
**CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO GALLERY OF CHUCK PAGANO’S RETURN TO THE SIDELIENS**VIDEO OF COACH PAGANO'S EMOTIONAL POSTGAME LOCKER ROOM SPEECH: