INDIANAPOLIS – Colts coach Chuck Pagano called it "one for the ages," and it was certainly unique in franchise history.
The Colts' 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, coming after a 28-point deficit, was the second-biggest comeback in NFL playoff history behind only a 32-point comeback by Buffalo over Houston in 1993..
After the game, Pagano talked about the win that sends the Colts to play at either Denver or New England next weekend:
What changed? How did you turn this thing around?
“Well, it didn't look like much when we came out, obviously, after half. But our guys, we just said, 'Hey look, again, we've been here before. We've been down. We got 30 minutes. Stick to the process. Trust your fundamentals. Trust your technique. Play it one play at a time.' I know I sound like a broken record and redundant, but that's all we did. And we said we're going to get back in this thing one play at a time. It looked bleak at times, but our guys, they never stopped playing. One thing we talked about this week is you can measure a lot of things at the Combine and all those type of things, but you can't measure what's inside a man. You can't measure his heart. And these guys got more heart and grit than anybody I've ever been around, just the simple fact that they stuck to the process and never doubted.”
If there was one play that kind of swung the momentum, would it be the strip-sack by Robert Mathis?
“That was obviously a huge play, a spark, gave us some momentum. But I think down there on the goal line and we lost that ball and Andrew (Luck) picks that ball up and finds a way, only like Andrew Luck can do and scores a touchdown, that was incredible. The stop late in the game by the defense to force a field goal and make it a six-point game was huge. Then obviously fourth down was major. So there was a ton of plays I'm sure once we look at the tape. It was unbelievable, lot of great ones.”
What was going through your mind when the offense took that knee to end the game?
“I don't know. It seemed surreal, being down like we were down and then you have that fourth-down stop and they had used their last timeout there at the two-minute. We were talking on the headset about if we stopped them, we were going to have to run a play. We weren't going to be able to run it completely out. So when they took that timeout and then you stop them on fourth-and-11 and you see him (Luck) on a knee and actually come back from 28 down and up by a point and get to advance in the tournament. Thinking about how good tomorrow's going to be, snow or no snow, I don't really care.”
When they lost Jamaal Charles early, was your defense maybe surprised to see so much Alex Smith in the way they used him?
“Well, we knew, just like the first game, that he was the guy that all eyes were on and the guy that you had to stop. We also knew that the quarterback was more than capable and they had a bunch of playmakers. Dwayne Bowe had a big day and made big plays. (Dexter) McCluster and Donnie Avery, they got a ton of talent. They did a great job. The tempo was fast. The substitutions were fast. The plays, I mean they did a great job. They came in with a great plan. We made one more play than they made and found a way to get out of here with a win.”
How about the challenge of getting your team to come down from this win and face a tough opponent next week?
“I don't worry about that. You think about all we've been through the last two seasons, great, great wins and some really tough defeats, especially this year – they've always come back. Human nature is tough to fight, but they won't get complacent. We signed up for one thing and one thing only when we all got together in Anderson in training camp, and we all know what that is. They'll enjoy it for a few hours tonight and they'll be in there first thing in the morning getting treatment, getting a lift, taking care of their bodies and watching tape.”
What was going through your mind when you saw T.Y. Hilton get behind the Chiefs secondary for the winning score?
“Scored too fast. You think I'm kidding. No, it was just like everything else as we kind of clawed our way back in. I'm not surprised by the guy throwing it and the guy that caught it at all. Great, great, great, great play. Again, there was a lot of time left on that clock. But again, we found a way to close that thing out.”
Can you speak about T.Y. Hilton a little bit?
“He's unbelievable. He's a game-wrecker. He's a game-wrecker. In these type of games, big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games and that's what T.Y. did today. He's stepped up many times before and he did it again for us today.”