Indianapolis Colts Football

Miracle on West 56th Street

Posted by Chuck Chapman on December 24, 2012 – 9:47 am

Frank Capra would take one look at a script for the Colts 2012 season and say, “Nah, too far-fetched. An audience would never buy this story.” And yet the Colts have produced in real life a story that would have sounded utterly ridiculous had you sketched it out at the beginning of training camp.

Like “It’s a Wonderful Life” the Colts 2012 highlight film starts with an ominous beginning and moves through what could have been tragedy toward a story-book ending. But instead of George Bailey being helped out by an angel named Clarence, the Colts version has Bruce Arians, a career NFL assistant coach, being helped out week after week by a rookie named Andrew trying to earn his wings as an NFL quarterback.

When the Colts jettisoned over half their roster last off-season and hired a new general manager, Ryan Grigson, with no previous experience in the position, everyone wrote off 2012 as a necessary growing pain. You don’t overhaul your roster like that in the NFL, especially while being severely limited by the salary cap. You certainly don’t do it while breaking in a rookie quarterback, succeeding a legend, playing behind an offensive line anchored by a second year pro that hadn’t played a down together. And you don’t do it with a new coaching staff, headed by a coach, who like Grigson, had no experience at the position. If the Colts equaled their 2-14 mark of 2011, no one would be surprised.

But Grigson and his front office elves assembled a roster of cast-offs like Cory Redding and Tom Zbikowski and players trying to recreate their careers like Donnie Avery. He sprinkled a Jerrell Freeman, who was a force north of the border, but hadn’t done anything to make the NFL take notice. In April, he added a draft class that would produce five starters out of 10 picks.

Then he handed all these parts over to Chuck Pagano, Bruce Arians and Greg Manusky to see what they could make of them. Things looked promising in the preseason. The quarterback, Andrew Luck, amazingly began his career with a touchdown pass, just like the legend he was following. “He could be pretty decent,” everyone thought. “Maybe they’ll win six or seven this year.”

Then in week one the Chicago Bears introduced this motley assortment to the NFL. There was a lot of work to do. They beat the Vikings at home, but the Vikings were about as bad as the Colts were last year, so that couldn’t be counted as a great win. Then right before the bye, the Jacksonville Jaguars came to Lucas Oil Stadium and broke the Colts’ hearts with an 80 yard slant route to win the game right before time expired.

The young Colts were 1-2 heading into the bye week with the Green Bay Packers waiting on the other side. Things couldn’t be much worse. That was before Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia.

Bruce Arians was introduced in an emotional news conference where Jim Irsay broke the news to the public. The Colts’ new head coach wouldn’t be fighting for wins. He was fighting for his life.

Suddenly football seemed an afterthought. The Packers were still coming in and with all the distractions surrounding Pagano, the Colts would be lucky to stay within four touchdowns.

In the first half, it looked like that would happen. The Colts headed to the locker room trailing 21-3. The only question was whether or not Arians could prevent the game from becoming a total rout.

It was at this moment, in that locker room, that Capra began writing the Colts’ script. Instead of limping home for the final 30 minutes and being 1-3, ChuckStrong was born. The Colts rallied with the spirit of their stricken coach and erased the Packers lead, emerging with a 30-27 victory.

From there the Colts won eight of their 11 games. All but one of those wins came by a score or less. Several games seemed lost, but the Colts dug deep, finding a mysterious strength and found a way to win.

Sunday’s win in Kansas City was just another part of this amazing story. The offense struggled. The defense was yielding huge chunks of yardage on the ground. Yet when the final gun sounded, there were the Colts, victorious and proud owners of the fifth seed in the NFL playoffs.

If the story ended there, we would all watch the credits roll and go home having enjoyed a wonderful show. But that’s not all. These Colts aren’t finished writing their story.

Chuck Pagano will return to work this week. He’s finished with his chemotherapy and declared fit to come back by his doctors. He’s won the battle for his life against leukemia. Now he will be on the sideline this week when the Colts meet the Texans in the season finale.

More importantly, he’ll be on the sidelines when the Colts take the field, most likely in Pagano’s (and the Colts’) old home of Baltimore in two weeks.

Whether they can continue to write additional chapters after that remains to be seen, but what they’ve come up with so far is nothing short of a miracle.

Yes, Colts fans, your team is in the playoffs. Believe.


Chuck Chapman is entering his second season as the editor and lead writer for Colts 101. He also covered the Cincinnati Bengals for the Sports Media 101. Chuck and his family are originally from Ohio, but have settled in Central Indiana and become big Colts fans. You can read Chuck’s other writing about the Colts at

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Posted by Kevin Bowen on December 20, 2012 – 8:34 am

The inquiries were not about bouncing back from a loss, the Chiefs or possible playoff scenarios.

Instead, Colts players fielded questions about the potential return of their friend, and head coach, Chuck Pagano to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

“It’s going to be crazy,” safety Antoine Bethea said. “It’s going to be a great moment, just having him back on an everyday basis with the team, knowing that’s what he really wants, back with us coaching and back on the sideline. Obviously we know it’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be a great time.”

The definite date of when Pagano returns has not been determined but interim head coach Bruce Arians said the goal remains for sometime next week.

While his message has remained with the Colts players, having Pagano’s physical presence around the facility will be a welcoming sight.

“We are so blessed to have a leader like Chuck,” offensive guard Joe Reitz said. “We’ve all been praying for him and are glad that things have gone well. I think we all look forward to the day when he’s back in there, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Arians also mentioned that he is looking forward to the day when his head coach will be back doing what he has longed to do.

With Arians in the interim role, the Colts are 8-3 and the players made sure to point out what an incredible job the offensive coordinator has done under unforeseen circumstances.

“Coach of the Year caliber,” outside linebacker Robert Mathis said of Arians’ performance. “Nothing short of amazing what he’s done. He’s came in and just kept the train rolling. Kudos to him.”

When the announcement of Pagano’s diagnosis came on Oct. 1, Arians stood in front of cameras and did not speak long, but brought a powerful message.

“If Chuck can’t make it back for the regular season, why can’t we extend the season?  Play a few more games until he gets back,” Arians said back on Oct. 1.

With two games remaining in the regular season the Colts are in position to not only extend the season for Chuck, but also have a chance to get their head coach back for the season finale at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“It would mean the world to us,” Mathis said of Pagano’s return. “Just for him to fight this, well he’s not fighting it alone, we are here, heart and mind and souls are with him. He’s coming back to whip this thing and get back to work.”

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Posted by Kevin Bowen on December 18, 2012 – 10:08 am

Interim head coach Bruce Arians joined ‘Voice of the Colts’ Bob Lamey on the ‘Pagano Show’ Monday evening to discuss a variety of topics. Below are a few of the highlights:

On if he thought the Texans game had a similar feeling to previous comebacks:

“That was the thing that was disappointing because those were the games that we had been winning. We knew if we could get it back to a one score game we were going to have a chance to win the football game. They made more plays at the end than we did.”

On if preparation will change at all this week coming off a loss:

“No. We will maintain our same procedure as we’ve had all year. It hasn’t been too bad for us so far. Stick to the process. We had great meetings (Monday), watched the tape and got the corrections made. I think the guys left with a positive attitude, ready to come to work Wednesday and getting this one game done.”

On why the Colts have been so successful in bouncing back from losses:

“The 24-hour rule, same with winning. It’s over. That’s why we wanted to come in and make the corrections, see what we did wrong, but also there was a lot of good things on that tape that we can take and build on. If we are fortunate enough to get into the playoffs than that is going to help us on the road. That’s more than anything why we came in (Monday) and got it done.”

On his early impressions of the Kansas City Chiefs:

“Defensively, they might be as talented of a group as we’ve seen all year. They have about seven No. 1 draft picks on that defense. They can play defense. Obviously they’ve struggled a little bit offensively with their quarterback situation with injuries. Defensively, they come and play every week.”

On what Cory Redding has meant to this team:

“I think it speaks volumes that the players voted him a captain. He was Man of the Year for our organization. He’s an outstanding individual, a great leader and has been an extremely great addition to this organization.”

On if coach Chuck Pagano is scheduled to return for the season finale on Dec. 30 against the Texans:

“That’s out plan. We are hoping so and everything is heading to that. Hopefully, no setbacks this week and that will be the best Christmas present anyone can give us.”


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Posted by Kevin Bowen on December 13, 2012 – 8:44 am

Nine hours.

That was the amount of time Bruce Arians had to transition from receiving a phone call form Chuck Pagano telling him he had leukemia until the Colts offensive coordinator addressed a room full of 60+ players to deliver the devastating news of their head coach.

In a time where the team’s psyche would be challenged, Arians and the rest of the Colts coaching staff has not wavered from the values that was created by their head coach.

“Bruce has done a great job in continuing to keep on preaching what Chuck (started) and not coming in here and saying, ‘this is my team, I’m changing up everything.’ No, nothing like that,” outside linebacker Dwight Freeney said. “He believed a lot of what Chuck believes in and he continues the same things and traditions that Chuck instilled here, of the mindset on how to go out and prepare and believe in the process. He’s done a tremendous job.”

Arians has the Colts (9-4) in a position to become the fourth team in NFL history to win 10 or more games following a season with two or fewer victories (and just the second since 1974).

When news broke of Pagano’s illness and talk switched over to the logistics of the football team, the interaction between Arians and his pupil, Andrew Luck, was a frequent topic.

Would Arians have time to balance his head coaching duties along with continuing to develop another young signal caller?

Luck wasn’t worried.

“He’s got great people skills and he’s a football guy,” Luck said of Arians. “He’s been around football forever. He’s been a head coach before so it didn’t surprise me too much.”

“I do really appreciate how much he’s focused on not letting the communication stop or lesson. I know I’ve spoken on this before but I think it’s a credit to him for doing everything extra he still did in those however many hours, on top of that.”

Last season, defensive end Cory Redding considered Arians a foe.

As a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Redding prepared for Arians’ Steelers offense twice coming out on top in both meetings.

Now, the two are together striving for the same goal of watching their friend and head coach come out of the tunnel on Dec. 30 when the Colts take on the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Redding joked that at first it was unusual hearing Arians cheer for the defense making plays in practice but credits the job the offensive coordinator has done in his new role .

“Just how (Arians) handles every situation and how he handles the team, his leadership, how he demands guys to do things and call them out when it’s not done. That’s what makes him a great coach,” Redding said. “He’s been good at it and stepped and done the job unbelievingly well. He’s getting the guys ready to play mentally and physically.”

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Posted by Kevin Bowen on December 11, 2012 – 2:00 pm

Colts interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians covered a variety of topics on Monday evening while on the ‘Pagano Show’ hosted by ‘Voice of the Colts’ Bob Lamey. Below are some of the highlights:

On the key to the start of the second half against the Titans:

“I’ve always been of the impression that the first five minutes of the second half usually dictate what happens in a ball game, especially when you’re down. If you get rolling just like we did with Green Bay, get an interception and something good happens with a touchdown, the crowd gets into it and then it just snowballs.”

On the message at halftime that has allowed this team to be so successful in the second half:

“You just figure out why you’re down, what the mistakes are and how to correct them. Hollering and screaming, that doesn’t get anything done. You’ve got to teach at halftime and our coaching staff does a great job of adjusting at halftime. I thought we matched (the Titans) intensity or created more intensity than they did in the second half with our crowd getting into it when we took that first drive down there and scored. So you are always positive. You’ve got to be positive until the last tick goes off the clock.”

On the play of Pat McAfee this season and some of his punts leading to turnovers:

“He’s done it over and over this year. We’ve got some turnovers out of it for big plays. He’s a Pro Bowler. I don’t know if he’ll get voted in but he’s a Pro Bowler. He’s always been a boomer but to be able to boom it and directionally kick it, that is a great, tough job. He’s handling it and getting better and better at it.”

On the importance of the special teams unit in general:

“They’ve been huge especially in the last month. T.Y’s really getting to be an electric returner. Our guys see it. They are blocking their tails off for him. Our coverage units are really doing a great job and our specialists have been outstanding. We are not where we’re at right now without our special teams.”

On the continued success of unsung guys stepping up on a weekly basis:

“They are looking for their opportunities and when you play well, you get more opportunities. They’ve bought into that style of ‘next man up’ and that’s more than a mantra when guys believe in it. Once you’re in there, don’t come out. Make me keep you in the game.”

On the enjoyment you have gotten out of helping this team out in unforeseen circumstances:

“You do what you have to do. Mr. Irsay asked me to do this and I’m more than happy to put that hat on and sit in that chair while Chuck’s out, and I can’t wait until he gets back. That’s the job I was asked to do I’m just trying to do it to my best.”

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Posted by Kevin Bowen on November 30, 2012 – 3:24 pm

In a season that has been filled with records for Reggie Wayne, the Colts 12-year receiver can add another bullet point to his Hall of Fame resume this weekend.

With a touchdown against the Lions, Wayne will have scored a touchdown against every team in the NFC (Cleveland and the New York Jets remain the only teams in the AFC).

Wayne admitted prior to the season that learning a new offense has made him turn back the clock a bit and his production would indicate that. Now heading into Week 13 of the regular season, Wayne is feeling his age physically but mentally, it’s the players in the meeting room who are keeping him young.

“The days that I do feel a little weary, bones may hurt more than others, but when I get around those guys they get me going, keep me motivated,” Wayne said.

“That’s kind of been a plus for me this year, especially being in the receiver room where it’s me and everybody else is fairly new, and young other than Donnie Avery and Austin Collie. I love being around those guys. Hopefully we can keep this thing going.”

Those young Colts, sprinkled in with some very important veterans, has Indianapolis sitting at 7-4 with the final month of the regular season beginning this weekend.

From an age standpoint the receivers that Wayne shares the position with still remain young, but at this point of the year they have already experienced an entire college regular season.

“Those guys are professionals,” Wayne said of the rookie receivers. “They understand what it is to be in this league now. We don’t look at them as rookies any more. They are just guys that are all playing key roles in this offense.”

“They’ve adjusted to heavy note takers in the meetings. They pay attention to detail and they work at their craft. That’s all that you can ask them to do. The rest should take care of itself.”

It’s players like T.Y. Hilton and Lavon Brazill that keep the 34-yard old Wayne ‘motivated’ heading into the stretch run of the regular season.

That’s not the only thing that is motivating Wayne as the calendar turns to December.

Come Sunday, he knows he will have a coach, and more importantly a close friend, back in Indianapolis watching intently

“I talk to him all the time. I talk to him too much. My wife’s getting a little jealous,” Wayne said with a smile. He’s one of the biggest reasons why I’m here, why I came back.”


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Posted by Kevin Bowen on November 27, 2012 – 9:16 am

Colts interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians covered a variety of topics on Monday evening while on the ‘Pagano Show’ hosted by ‘Voice of the Colts’ Bob Lamey. Below are some of the highlights:

On winning another one-possession game, the sixth of the season:

“I think that’s the only kind we know how to play right now (laughs). We are winning the one-possession games and I’m really proud of the way our defense and special teams played. I thought they were outstanding. Offensively, we did just enough to win the game and did not lose the game.”

On what has been the key to winning so many close games:

“It is (really hard to do). Hats off to the young players. We have great veteran leadership but these young guys have bought in and they’re working really hard. I thought offensively some of the young players looked like they hit the rookie wall and we had a little talk in halftime. But they bounced back and played really well in the second half.”

On why this team finds itself sitting at 7-4 and leading the AFC Wild Card:

“I think the whole thing with the bonding and our team having a purpose, and the purpose being Chuck. Just hell-bent on going to extend this season until he’s back. The coaching staff has done a tremendous job of trying to take his place and everybody’s chipped in.”

On what your impressions have been of the Colts fans:

“They are fantastic. I always felt like even in my time here before at the old stadium it was one of the (loudest) places to play in. When you come in here as a visitor it is extremely difficult to block out (the defensive) front with all the crowd noise. I think our crowd does a great job. Hopefully we’ll continue to win and win at home and that’ll get us into the playoffs.’

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Posted by Kevin Bowen on November 20, 2012 – 9:49 am

Bruce Arians shared his thoughts on a variety of topics Monday evening with ‘Voice of the Colts’ Bob Lamey hosting the ‘Pagano Show.’ Below are a few of the highlights:

 On some positives that you can take away from the loss to the Patriots:

“I was very pleased with the start of the game. I knew our football team was ready to play. It didn’t come out on the scoreboard the way we wanted but there were a lot of really good things that happened for us in that ball game. We ran the football extremely well, at five yards a clip. The third-down percentage was pretty solid and we were two-for-two in the red zone for touchdowns. Defensively, they did not run the football. We went in and said that they weren’t going to run it. They hit a reverse on us at the end of the game but it didn’t really matter. That was half their rushing yards.”

On not wanting your players to forget about the Patriots loss initially:

“I didn’t want our guys to forget about it. Everybody wants to say ‘just forget about this game and go to the next one.’ No, no, we don’t do that. There were valuable lessons to learn from that ball game that we needed to correct and see (Monday) because we have hopes to be back there in that same stadium soon. That’s something that we can’t forget and we should learn from. After we had the coaching sessions today, watched the tape, now we can put it behind us and get on to Buffalo.”

On your impressions of the Bills:

“They can sling it. Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger that just rears back and fires it. He doesn’t hold anything back. He’s a very bright guy. He’s a Harvard guy and he’s very mobile too. That’s another thing that he brings to the table. They’ve got skill players coming out of the kazoo. C.J. Spiller is one of the best young backs in the league. They’ve got weapons on offense.”

On keeping up the mantra of continuing to bounce back from losses:

“That’s huge and we don’t want to do that. That’s something we set out and said we never want to lose two in a row. We (darn) sure don’t want to lose at home. We want to protect this turf. Our crowd has been fantastic and we are going to need another great one this week. Crowd noise will really affect this ball game because they’re a shotgun passing team and when they can’t hear, they can’t use the snap count. It also affects their running game. So it’ll be great for us to have the 12th man out there just rolling.”

On an update on coach Chuck Pagano

“Fantastic. He was in (Monday) morning. A couple of the coaches were sick so he couldn’t sit in on a meeting that he was hoping to sit in on. He looks strong. His voice is getting stronger. He looked like he picked up a couple pounds. The second round has not been as bad, knock on wood, as we thought it’d be. Then it’ll be early December when he goes back for round three and, knock on wood, we’re hoping he’s going to be there December 30th.”

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Posted by Kevin Bowen on November 14, 2012 – 5:53 pm

While the Colts rookie class has garnered a bulk of the attention this year on the offensive side of the ball for Indianapolis, it’s the veteran of the unit who is putting up career numbers in his 12th NFL season.

Reggie Wayne has provided a constant target for quarterback Andrew Luck with a reliable set of hands that seems to come up with the ball continually on third downs.

Wayne’s 69 catches leads the NFL and his 931 receiving yards is good for second in the league. As Wayne nears his 34th birthday, those numbers don’t come as a surprise to Bruce Arians.

“He works out and keeps himself in tremendous shape and I think he got rejuvenated in the fact that he basically is a rookie in this offense having come off the left side, being on the right side, being in the slot, being in motion, doing all the things that his abilities allow him to do because he’s so smart,” Arians said.

“I think he sees that can extend his career for a while and he’s in full tilt. It’s a pleasure to have a guy like that, with his work ethic and his brains on your football team be your leader.”

While several key cogs on the Colts offense moved on following the 2011 regular season, Wayne re-signed with the team that drafted him back in 2001.

Learning a new offense scheme and creating a rapport with a rookie quarterback was going to be needed the offseason.

Even with Luck missing part of OTAs due to finishing up his degree at Stanford, Wayne made sure the two got the necessarily work in prior to training camp including a trip down to the University of Miami.

“I think they stayed in such constant communication from when they were allowed to talk and then the time they spent in Florida and all the days up here in the summer,” Arians said.

“It’s not like he’s sitting on that left side and you just throw balls to him like you used to and you get the route tree now. He’s got 50 or 60 different alignments and different routes. I think (the success) is a credit to both of them, how much hard work they’ve put in on and off the field.”

For good reason, Luck has found himself targeting No. 87 more than any other player during the first nine games this season.

With so many fellow rookies at the skill positions surrounding Luck, his relationship with Wayne has been vital to the offense’s success.

“He’s been awesome to be around, so that’s been great for me,” Luck said. “You hear a big name like Reggie and think he going to be like standoffish or look down on you, which hasn’t been the case at all. I don’t know if I’ve been surprised but it’s been really nice getting to know him and being in the same locker room with him.”

When Arians took the reigns as offensive coordinator  he had a hunch of who is quarterback would be and he also had a strong feeling that a Pro Bowl receiver would be returning to the fold.

“I wasn’t (surprised) because he’s a Colt and he wanted to be a Colt bad,” Arians said of Wayne’s free agency. “He’s a legend here and he’s going to go into the Hall of Fame.”

“He always wanted to be here and as soon as Chuck (Pagano) made that call, it was just a matter of, ‘Yeah I’m coming.’ He knew what he was getting into and I think he’s excited more than anybody with the change. He’s jumped in and he’s really excited about it. You can’t put a quantified value on how much his leadership means to our team.

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Posted by Kevin Bowen on November 13, 2012 – 1:58 pm

Bruce Arians was a guest on the ‘Pagano Show’ Monday evening.  ‘Voice of the Colts’ Bob Lamey hosts the show and Arians covered a variety of topics with a few of the highlights are below:

On Arians spending some time with head coach Chuck Pagano on Saturday afternoon:

“He was feeling real good and he knew some down days were coming but he’s mentally prepared for it. It’s going to be a tough week but he’s going to be fine.”

On how he thought his team dealt with a short week:

“I was really pleased with our veterans as far as schooling the young guys on what to anticipate as far as a short week and what kind of game it was going to be, a very physical game, a division game and the young guys responded very well. I thought it was the best game in certain areas and not so much in others. In the fourth quarter, we committed some really stupid penalties and made a couple boneheaded plays offensively but it didn’t hurt us because we had built a nice lead. In the game’s coming up it could come back to bite us. We have to clean that up. It’s fun to be able to coach and clean stuff up with a victory.”

On the play of the offensive line against the Jaguars:

“They’ve logged enough snaps now and they are all comfortable with each other. When Samson (Satele) went down, A.Q. (Shipley) came in and did a great job. (Jeff Linkenbach) has bounced all over the place, starting at left guard, right tackle and has played his heart out every where he’s been. Bradley Sowell got a few snaps at tight end. Our whole blocking unit, I was real pleased with.”

On what it is going to take to beat the Patriots:

“The biggest thing is you cannot turn the football over up there. Tom’s (Brady) going to turn them into points every time. The games that I’ve had success up there we’ve been error free as are as turnovers and we got lucky and got a couple. They’re outstanding. They have great offensive skill and they play an up tempo (style) that our defense must get ready for. Our offense has to go out and make first downs, score points and let’s see how the chips fall.”

On what it has been like to coach such a young team, specifically offensively:

“The results for me, watching them get better is more important right now than the wins and losses. They will take care of themselves. As long as you see each guy get better on a consistent, daily basis then you know something is building for the future, which is going to be really powerful. This young class that we have offensively is a dynamite class. There is so much football talent but they are (also) great guys. They are so much fun to be with every day. It’s probably given me 10 years of youth working with them every day. I feel so much younger with these guys. They’re great guys.”

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