When he was hired nearly 21 months ago, Pagano said he wanted to field a team that hit hard for 60 minutes on both sides of the ball. He wanted to play an old-fashioned smashmouth style that would leave an impression on opponents long after the final gun. And, most importantly, he wanted the team's performance to be something its fans could take pride in.
On Sunday, in every facet, it was mission accomplished.
"Great team win," Pagano told the media Monday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "Great win for this city. Great win for our fans. Great win for the organization. Unbelievable. But we all understand it's a marathon, it's not a sprint."
The victory moved the Colts (2-1) into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC South with the Texans and Titans. But it was just the start of a seven-week stretch that will define this season.
Indianapolis visits Jacksonville (0-3) this weekend then hosts Seattle (3-0), travels to San Diego (1-2) and hosts Denver (2-0 entering Monday night's game against the Raiders) before the bye week on Oct. 27. The gauntlet ends Nov. 3 with a divisional showdown at Houston.
It's a slate of games that will reveal the character of this team. On Sunday, the Colts discovered their identity.
The game-breaking drive began at Indianapolis' 20-yard line with 11:14 to play in the game. A week earlier, the Colts failed to hold a 20-17 third-quarter lead and a late fourth-quarter drive stalled at Miami's 23-yard line in a 24-20 loss to the Dolphins.
This time around, Indianapolis relied on the balance offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has been seeking and marched to victory.
The first eight plays of the drive were split evenly among runs and passes, including penalties against the 49ers for pass interference and defensive holding that led to first downs. Once Indianapolis reached midfield, it dropped the hammer.