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Colts/NFL

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Playoffs
Wild card round
Indianapolis
at Baltimore
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
TV: CBS
Cincinnati
at Houston
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
TV: NBC
Minnesota
at Green Bay
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
TV: NBC
Seattle at Washington
When: 4:30 p.m.
Sunday
TV: Fox
Scoreboard
Indianapolis 28, Houston 16
Chicago 26, Detroit 24
Tennessee 38, Jacksonville 20
Carolina 44, New Orleans 38
Buffalo 28, N.Y. Jets 9
Cincinnati 23, Baltimore 17
Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 10
N.Y. Giants 42, Philadelphia 7
Tampa Bay 22, Atlanta 17
San Diego 24, Oakland 21
San Francisco 27, Arizona 13
Seattle 20, St. Louis 13
Denver 38, Kansas City 3
Minnesota 37, Green Bay 34
New England 28, Miami 0
Washington 28, Dallas 18
Associated Press photos
Colts coach Chuck Pagano, left, celebrates with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who filled in for Pagano when he was battling leukemia, after their 28-16 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis 28, Houston 16

Colts get coach win in finale

Triumphant return caps 2nd biggest turnaround season in NFL history

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was 14 of 28 for 191 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions Sunday.

– Chuck Pagano put on his dancing shoes and savored every moment of Sunday’s postgame celebration.

He took his customary linebacker stance on the sideline, hands on bended knees. He signaled touchdowns when the Colts scored, patted Deji Karim on the helmet after a 101-yard kickoff return for a game-changing touchdown, and gestured for penalty flags to be thrown.

And after Indianapolis beat AFC South champion Houston 28-16, Pagano even tossed aside the stodgy image of an NFL coach and began jumping around with players, assistant coaches and even team owner Jim Irsay like he was a kid again.

Why not?

“There was a lot of high-fiving, a lot of dancing, a lot of hugging going on and a lot of celebrating,” an emotional Pagano said. “There’s a lot to celebrate right now.”

It started with Pagano’s return.

He took an indefinite leave Sept. 26 to begin the first of three rounds of chemotherapy for leukemia Sept. 26 and didn’t make it back to the sideline until Sunday when the cancer was in complete remission.

But the party began much earlier.

When Pagano first walked onto the field, he waved to the fans and hugged his wife, Tina.

When fans gave him a standing ovation after a 1-minute video played on the stadium’s two Jumbotrons just before kickoff, a choked-up Pagano held his tears in check. When he left the field, he hugged everybody in sight – assistant coaches, Colts players, even Texans players and coaches – before moving the postgame party to the locker room, where Irsay presented him with a game ball and they did a do-si-do together.

“What a day, what a day,” he said. “We could go into what transpired out there over the last three hours and five, 10 minutes whatever, from a stats standpoint and big plays, penalties and run offense and run ‘D’, all of that stuff. But just down the road, I have watched all of this take place for the last 12 ball games.”

Players had a different kind of welcome-back celebration planned.

“Guys really did not want to lose in his first game back and heading into the playoffs,” rookie quarterback Andrew Luck said. “To get a win, I think means the world to him.”

Luck, as usual, had a big hand in the victory. He was 14 of 28 for 191 yards with two more touchdowns and no interceptions.

He wasn’t alone, though.

Karim swung the game with the kickoff return just seconds after the Texans took their only lead, and when Luck converted on third-and-23 with the 70-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter, the crowd was in a frenzy.

The Colts (11-5) will play at Baltimore in the wild-card round Sunday. The slumping Texans (12-4) have lost three of their last four and play host to Cincinnati on Saturday.

“We had a great opportunity the last two weeks, but we won’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said after giving Pagano a hug and whispering in his ear after the game. “We’ll focus on keeping our confidence up, even if we have to play next week.”

Indianapolis did everything it needed to Sunday.

The Colts prevented J.J. Watt from getting too close to Luck – or any closer to Michael Strahan’s NFL sacks record (22 1/2 ). Watt finished with 20 1/2 .

“We didn’t win, so I could care less about the record. It’s about winning,” Watt said.

Luck broke Peyton Manning’s franchise record for completions by a rookie but fell 15 short of Sam Bradford’s NFL mark. Luck also moved into third all-time among rookies with 22 TD passes. And Indianapolis completed the second greatest turnaround in league history – winning nine more games than it did in 2011.

“Man, this has been a great year, a storybook ending,” Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne said. “Let’s keep it going. Hopefully we can continue to write this movie.”

On a day the Texans mostly settled for field goals, Luck masterfully led the Colts to a 14-6 halftime lead.

Houston made it 14-13 when Arian Foster broke through a hole for a 13-yard TD run and saluted Pagano by tapping the Chuckstrong sign behind the end zone. Foster ran 16 times for 96 yards.

Graham’s 37-yard field goal gave Houston the lead with 5:22 to go in the third quarter, but Karim’s long TD return set off a celebration that didn’t end until after Pagano had done his dance.

“It’s like a dream come true again,” Pagano said. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world to be down there.”

Schaub finished 24 of 36 for 275 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.

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