A week later, the defense got into the act during a 25-3 thrashing of the Houston Texans. That was the start of a season-ending three-game winning streak that included an impressive 23-7 whipping of the Chiefs two weeks ago and saw the defense surrender just a pair of touchdowns over the final 12 quarters.
“No personnel shifts. No change in schemes. No world-changing type of deals,” said Mathis, who has become a leading candidate to be named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. “It’s just holding guys accountable. If you’re not doing your job, you’re going to be called out within ourselves, not in the media or anything like that. It’s guys being accountable.”
Accountability. It’s what the players-only meeting was all about. And it likely saved the Colts’ season.
Indianapolis took a commanding lead in the AFC South with a victory at Tennessee on Nov. 14, making a playoff berth a near certainty. But the Colts didn’t much resemble a postseason contender.
While Pagano was preaching the need to “catch fire” and build momentum for a playoff run, Indianapolis continued its Jekyll-and-Hyde on-field performances.
Then the veterans decided it was time for a talk. And the Colts determined how they wanted this season to be remembered.
“These players hold each other to a high standard,” Pagano said. “We as coaches hold ourselves and the players to a high standard. But when the accountability comes from the players, from your locker room, that’s when you really have something special.”
The real prize lies ahead.
The Colts have never hidden the fact that success this season will be measured by a trip to New York City in early February. All but 19 players on the 53-man roster have been the playoffs before, but this franchise hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009.