"WE WILL, WE CAN, WE MUST. WE HAVE NO CHOICE. BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. WE WILL OVERCOME."
- Chuck Pagano in an email sent yesterday to his team
That was the mantra this week, and nothing embodied it better than the second half performance by the Indianapolis Colts today. Down 21-3 at halftime, the Colts rallied and willed themselves to win one for their coach, Chuck Pagano, who has been hospitalized since last Wednesday after being diagnosed with leukemia.
The Colts completely took over the game in the second half, both offensively and defensively. On a day which saw the reining MVP (Aaron Rodgers) matched up against the first overall draft pick (Andrew Luck), the rookie looked like the better quarterback, if only for a day. Of course, he had the help of Reggie Wayne.
Wayne, the veteran on a young team, has been great all year, but today, he had one of the greatest performances by a Colt ever. Reggie, who not only calls Pagano a coach but a good friend, truly was #ChuckStrong today. He caught 13 passes (his career high is 14) for 212 yards (a career high) and the game winning touchdown. All day, he was there for Luck. It was the greatest receiving performance a Colt has ever had, and I truly believe that, especially when you consider the circumstances.
Yeah, the first half was atrocious. The line couldn't block, the defense couldn't defend, and Luck was helpless on the field, getting no help from his team (except, of course, from Reggie Wayne).
But in the second half, the team came together. The team rallied behind their veteran leader in Reggie Wayne. They rallied behind Bruce Arians, who kept the team together through a very trying and tough week. But most of all, they rallied behind Chuck Pagano, who was no doubt cheering hard for his team from his hospital room.
We had talked throughout the bye week, and pretty much all year, about how this team couldn't finish. About how this team fell apart in the second halves of games. Today, they finished. Today, they dominated the second half. Outscored 21-3 in the first half? No worry, the Colts outscored the Packers 27-6 in the second half. No protection for Andrew Luck in the first half, giving up four sacks? The Colts gave up zero in the second half. No pressure on Aaron Rodgers in the first half? The Colts recorded five sacks in the second half. That's #ChuckStrong.
Considering the circumstances, this will go down as one of the most remarkable performances in Colts history. Being down 21-3 to a team that is better than the Colts without their head coach and with so many problems in the first half... and they stormed back and won it.
The Colts truly won one for Chuck Pagano. When Andrew Luck ran for a touchdown, he spiked the ball and ran over to the #ChuckStrong banner and patted it.
This is the type of incredible win that could change a season. Now, let's not get carried away and say the Colts will make the playoffs, but there is really no way the Colts should have won that game.
The game ball is on it's way to Chuck Pagano right now as I type. It didn't seem possible, but the Colts pulled it out, beating the Green Bay Packers 30-27. Luck was great. Reggie was great. The defense in the second half was great. The performance will be remembered for a long time, and it can be summed up in one mantra, the one that is now on so many t-shirts and banners: #ChuckStrong. The Colts certainly were on Sunday.
That one was for you, Coach.