The Indianapolis Colts' 28-16 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday had altered the AFC playoff race, as the Texans fell out of the conference's top two seeds and into a first-round playoff game that they seemed sure to avoid. But the game's biggest story was the return of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who coached Indianapolis for the first time since he announced on Oct. 1 that he had been diagnosed with leukemia. For the franchise and its fans, it was a "special day," as Josh Wilson of SB Nation's Colts blog Stampede Blue reports.
The focus today was on Chuck Pagano, and rightfully so. Pregame the Colts reportedly tried to get him to lead the team out the tunnel, but he refused - not wanting to draw attention to himself. But the attention was unavoidable. Just prior to kickoff, the Colts aired a video on the jumbotrons highlighting Pagano and the team's journey this year. Following that the cameras switched to a live feed of him on the sidelines, but Colts nation didn't need the help. They were already on their feet and as loud as they have been in a long time. Pagano, fighting back tears, saluted the crowd with a fist pump in the air. From the very beginning, you could sense it was going to be a special day.
(via Stampede Blue)
What followed, according to Wilson, was Indianapolis' "best game of the season," especially considering that the Colts had locked up their playoff seed while the Texans were still fighting for a bye. The offense scored three touchdowns on one of the best defenses in the NFL, and quarterback Andrew Luck was interception-free for the third straight game. The defense, meanwhile, stifled one of the league's top offenses, intercepting Houston's Matt Schaub twice. The special teams made an impact, as well -- Deji Karim brought a kick back 101 yards for the go-ahead score.
But the day will be remembered for Pagano's presence on the sideline. The Colts will head to face the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs, hoping to extend what has already been a special season. As Wilson notes: "They're #ChuckStrong -- and who knows where that may take them next."