Magical? Inspired? Lucky?
It’s hard to characterize just how special this Indianapolis Colts season has been.
Left for comatose after a 2-14 campaign in 2011 and the departure of beloved quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts were expected to win maybe five games this season. They’ve won 11 and have a chance to win another Sunday at Baltimore in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs.
Pundits are again doubting the Colts. How could they possibly go into Baltimore and defeat the veteran Ravens? After all, the Colts have the youngest team in the NFL.
But this team has accomplished a great deal that nobody foresaw.
Inspired by head coach Chuck Pagano’s battle against cancer and bolstered by the magical play of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, Indianapolis has played its best when the game is on the line. Luck set an NFL record this year by leading his team back from fourth-quarter deficits to victory seven times. Never been done before.
Now, cynics will point out that Indianapolis has been outscored by the opposition and that the Colts have played a weak schedule. Lucky is the term cynics would use.
Folks around these parts don’t have much use for cynics when it comes to these Colts. To see them play is to believe. It’s no wonder they compete with the spirit of a college team; many of them were in college only a year or two ago. As Luck has suggested, perhaps their advantage is that they just don’t know how difficult winning is in the NFL. Naive confidence can count for a lot.
After a triumphant return from cancer treatments to the field last week, Pagano will be stalking the sideline again Sunday in Baltimore. He’ll feel right at home. Before joining the Colts, he was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator. Colts assistant coach Bruce Arians, who filled the head position so admirably in Pagano’s absence, is highly familiar with the Ravens as well. As the Steelers’ offensive coordinator in years past, he faced Baltimore twice each season.
And consider this: Indianapolis has won nine of its last 11 games, while the Ravens have dropped four or their last five.
Can Indy win Sunday? Considering the foes Pagano and Co. have already conquered, it’s doable. You’ve just got to believe.