"We needed this," Darius Butler said. "You never want to back into the playoffs. We want to go in there hot."
Any questions? Oh, yeah. Who's Griff Whalen?
The new Colts' folk hero.
Friday, he was on the practice squad. Sunday, he caught the first NFL touchdown pass of his life. Plus three other catches. Plus a 51-yard punt return.
"The coaches just told me to basically have fun out there and do what I know how to do," Whalen said.
He didn't know he was playing until Saturday. Before that, not a word. The life of a practice squader is rather like a fireman, waiting for the alarm bells to go off.
"That's something we talk about, having everybody prepare like a starter," he said.
Whalen has all the prerequisites of a guy nobody ever sees coming. Walk-on at Stanford. An undrafted free agent entering the NFL. A mainstay of the Colts' practice unit, except for the occasional times they need another body.
Working and waiting. Waiting and working. Doing well in the practice assignments handed him. But as Whalen said — and this could have been any NFL player who ever lived — "It's a different story doing it on Sunday."
Not that he has ever doubted his choice of vocation.
"This is a game I love playing, so it's not hard to get up and go do it every day."
Pagano has noticed. "Certainly Griff's not one of those guys that would go in the tank, so to speak. He's a grinder. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's got something to prove, obviously."
They Colts needed him Sunday with receiver LaVon Brazill hurt. So there Whalen was in the first quarter, slashing across the middle of the Houston defense and into the hearts of anyone partial to underdog stories. It was his 14-yard catch from old college teammate Luck that gave the Colts their first pre-halftime touchdown in eons. The handiwork of a Boy Scout invariably prepared.