INDIANAPOLIS — Who woulda thunk it?
Just a year removed from a disastrous 2-14 season and nine months since the decision was made to retool a veteran-laden roster and get younger in a hurry, the Indianapolis Colts completed one of the most remarkable turnarounds in National Football League history Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With nothing to play for in terms of post-season positioning -- Indianapolis was already locked in as the No. 5 seed and play at AFC North champion Baltimore next weekend -- the Colts went with their starters the entire way en route to a stunning 28-16 win over defending and current AFC South champion Houston.
The Texans, who were playing for the No. 1 seed in the upcoming AFC playoffs, couldn't withstand the barrage of big plays put forth by a determined and motivated Indianapolis squad. With head coach Chuck Pagano returning to the sidelines after missing the previous 12 games as he battled leukemia, the fired-up Colts pulled out all the stops to finish the regular season with an 11-5 record.
"What a day. What a day," a teary-eyed Pagano said afterward. "Thank you all for giving me all your support, your thoughts, your prayers. This [win] meant the world to me. We can go into what transpired out there [during the game] over the last three hours and five,10 minutes, whatever, from a stats standpoint and big plays and penalties and run offense and run defense and all that stuff.
"I'’ve been watching all this take place for the last 12 ball games. And as you guys know, when I came back, I told them there was never a doubt when I was faced with what I was faced with once I was told because I had no choice. I got family to take care of, I’ve got a wife and daughters and grandchildren and other people counting on me to be there so really I had no choice in the matter. It’s kind of been a mantra from day one with this club. They refuse to live in circumstance. They have lived in vision. They believe. They have faith. They have trust. And they love one another."