INDIANAPOLIS — Usually swathed in blue during Indianapolis Colts’ home games, the interior of Lucas Oil Stadium proved to be a hodgepodge of bright colors and causes on Sunday.
Pink shirts, ribbons, banners, hats, flags and, in the case of many of the players, shoes played a major role in the overall color scheme as the National Football League demonstrates its ongoing support for breast cancer awareness.
Signs supporting Colts coach Chuck Pagano, many adorned with the orange ribbon symbolic of the fight against leukemia, could also be seen.
Then there’s the matter of Green Bay, a franchise with arguably the league’s most devoted fan base, being in the house. Thus, the stadium rainbow radiated a great amount of dark green and gold with plenty of foam cheese wedges doubling as headwear.
Through it all, a football game had to be played. The first of what promise to be many for Indianapolis without their head coach with Pagano in the early stages of his fight against acute myeloid leukemia.
What transpired was one of the most memorable performances in recent history, the Colts rallying from an 18-point halftime deficit to defeat the Packers, 30-27.
Team owner Jim Irsay delivered the game ball to Pagano Sunday night. There are 53 players and an entire coaching staff who would love to be present if only Pagano’s hospital room accommodated such a throng.
“This is the most emotional game I’ve played in,” said fourth-year Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers, who finished with four tackles and an interception of an Aaron Rodgers pass. “From Day 1 we said we want to do it for Chuck. Each meeting we’ll come in and (interim coach Bruce Arians) has something on the board that Chuck would say.
“This is still Chuck’s team. He’s our leader.”
Indianapolis had a lot of leaders while evening its record to 2-2. Defensive end Cory Redding with two of the Colts’ five sacks of Rodgers. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck passing for 362 yards, 212 of them attributed to the sure hands of receiver Reggie Wayne. Donald Brown’s 84 yards rushing. The list goes on.
“This game was special. We truly showed the heart of this team today,” Redding said. “I’m just so proud of them.”
In contrast to the second half, the struggled in the first. Green Bay jumped out to a 21-3 lead and appeared on course for a blowout when the hosts rattled off 16 consecutive third-quarter points to get the crowd of 67,020 stoked for a potential upset.
Adam Vinatieri’s 28-yard field goal with 8:04 remaining put Indy ahead, 22-21. Green Bay answered with a quick drive downfield, Rodgers throwing an 8-yard touchdown dart to James Jones at the 4:30 mark to put the Packers back in front, 27-22.
Starting at their own 20, the Colts moved downfield, the Luck-to-Wayne combination rearing its head five times for 64 yards on the final drive.
The two connected one final time for a four-yard score with only 39 seconds left. The Packers had one final opportunity to force overtime, but Mason Crosby’s 51-yard field goal attempt was no good.
Somewhere inside his room at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center, a goateed 52-year-old gentleman found himself provided the best possible medicine. Pagano will soon have Sunday’s game ball in his possession. Don’t expect him to fumble.