It’s not uncommon for a football team to adorn helmets with some sort of sticker intended to pay tribute.
The Indiana-polis Colts don’t need a miniaturized likeness of head coach Chuck Pagano on their headwear. Not in the back. Not above the top of the facemask. And certainly not between the sides of the blue horseshoe.
Whether the leukemia-stricken coach is attending a game in person, he’s there. Always. It’s a team on a mission. That mission being an endeavor to become immersed in playoff football in early January so that their 52-year-old coach is on the sideline where he belongs.
Stand a few feet from interim head coach Bruce Arians during a a postgame press conference, and the intensity he demonstrates is unavoidable. It’s not that the Colts want to do this for Chuck, more along the lines that the Colts will do this for Chuck.
“It’s all 53 guys for one common cause, and that’s to extend this season for Chuck,” Arians said late Sunday afternoon following his team’s 20-13 defeat of Buffalo. “Our guys are playing their tails off. Chuck’s illness has bonded our football team and our coaching staff because we’re going to do this for him.”
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Don’t set a blocking sled near Arians when he’s talking about Pagano. He’s capable of pushing it through the wall. And pity the media member in this situation who makes eye contact with Arians before following up with a “But what if ...” Thankfully, so far there have been none.
Indianapolis at 7-4 is playing inspired and, not counting last week’s collapse at New England, good football.
Next week’s game at Detroit against a Lions team that at that point will have 10 days rest is a test this team is equipped to pass. Then it’s a home game against a struggling Tennessee squad, meaning the possibility of taking a 9-4 record to Houston on Dec. 8 is very real.
The victory against the Bills, while not a statistical jaw-dropper in any one phase of the game, might have been the Colts’ most Pagano-esque effort yet.
Special teams were huge. The defense bent on occasion, but refused to break. Quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 240 yards, his fourth-lowest total in 11 starts. The running game managed 87 yards, but was effective when it had to be.
“Chuck built everything on team. I think that was a team victory right there,” Arians said.
Unlike the franchise’s finesse teams of the recent past, these Indianapolis Colts are meat-and-potatos all the way.
They have a no-nonsense head coach doing everything in his power to take down cancer, a replacement determined to resume his role as a full-time offensive coordinator and 53 men who have taken to an old-school approach and run with it.
Playoff berths aren’t awarded with style points. It’s about victories, and Indianapolis is sitting on seven in what is shaping up to be a magical season in many respects.
Arians firmly believes this team will be taking on all comers in January. If you doubt him, it might be wise to keep it to yourself.
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.