INDIANAPOLIS – The "monster" is heading to the playoffs.
Thanks to a 53-player effort and a CHUCKSTRONG leader, the Colts will take their act into the postseason riding the momentum of five wins in the past six weeks.
The regular season chapter had its final pages written on Sunday afternoon with a three-phase victory over a Texans team that entered Sunday afternoon leading the AFC.
From the first drive on Sunday, the Colts took a lead they would see evaporate for a mere 12 seconds in defeating the Texans 28-16 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With Head Coach Chuck Pagano back on the sideline, the Colts rode the emotion of his physical presence to a 14-6 halftime lead.
Houston, playing for the AFC's No. 1 seed, came out firing in the second half with a 12-play, 84-yard touchdown drive and followed that up with a field goal on its next possession to take a 16-14 lead with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter.
Facing a second-half deficit is nothing new to the Colts, but this time waiting until the fourth quarter to begin a comeback seemed like a waste.
Kick returner Deji Karim, who was signed three weeks ago after spending training camp with the Colts, took the kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. He galloped untouched through the middle of his return unit.
Special teams were a focus Owner and CEO Jim Irsay wanted his newly-hired staff to address during the offseason, and the Colts have reaped the benefits with a pair of returns for touchdowns this season.
"Mouf (Marwan Maalouf) the special teams coordinator, had been telling us we were going to get one and just to prepare for it. We ran the return, and it just split open," Karim said.
"I've got to give all the credit to all my blockers on kickoff return. They got the job done. They've been doing it every week, and I kept telling them over and over again that we were going to get this. They stayed patient with me, opened it up for me and I just took it for six. It's all a credit to them."
In a blink of an eye the momentum had returned back to the home sideline, and it wasn't going to leave for the rest of the afternoon.
The Colts defense followed with a three-and-out and on the next series, it was defensive end Lawrence Guy and outside linebacker Jamaal Westerman sacking quarterback Matt Schaub and forcing a 52-yard field goal try that missed wide to the right.
Guy and Westerman, along with defensive end Clifton Geathers (one sack on the afternoon), have been with the Colts for less than three months but epitomized Sunday afternoon what this season has been about.
"That goes to our GM (Ryan Grigson) who has done a heck of a job bringing in not only good players, but good guys in here to contribute and help us win," tight end Dwayne Allen said.
Players like Guy, Westerman and Geathers have come off the couch to fill in for a front seven that has been battered by injuries all season and included three starters that did not see action on Sunday.
On the other side of the football, the monster has been built by youth that simply knows no better than to go out there and just play the game they love.
Facing a third-and-23 at the Indianapolis 30-yard line with 11:31 to play, the rookies did just that.
Quarterback Andrew Luck dropped back and went for the jugular, finding the electric T.Y. Hilton past the Texans secondary for a 70-yard touchdown.
"It was a straight up seam route," Hilton said of the score that gave the Colts a 28-16 cushion. "The linebacker buzzed me and I looked up and I was running wide open. Andrew made a beautiful throw."
Hilton's seventh touchdown reception of the year was also the longest offensive play of the season for the Colts. It pushed the lead to two possessions, a position that would not change over the final 11 minutes.
Following the win, the jubilation inside the Colts locker room extended from every corner.
Rookies and players who have never experienced the playoffs talked about playing in January and for a veteran like Dwight Freeney, he just sat back and smiled knowing how much of a team-effort this run has been.
"It's about 53 guys on the roster. It's not about the starters. It's about the guys that have to replace the starters when they get hurt. It's about special teams. It's about the upper management brining in the right guys to fit in," Freeney said.
"Hats off to all those guys who pick and who choose who goes in and who doesn't. Hats off to the guys who come in, step in, do their job and do it all above and beyond the call."