INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano spent months trying to convince others that his old-school football philosophy would still work.
Those who didn’t believe it then sure do now.
Thanks to a powerful ground game, a productive passing game and a persistent defense, the short-handed Colts surprised everyone by easily overpowering defending NFC champion San Francisco – on the 49ers’ home turf.
It builds confidence throughout the locker room, throughout the organization and obviously on both sides of the ball and special teams, Pagano said. Like you said, they (the players) have bought in from Day 1, but it just lends credence to what you’re doing philosophically. When you lay out a blueprint, it doesn’t matter what venue, if we’re home or away, it shows that if you stick to the process, it comes to fruition and you go win a game like we just won, you can build on that.
Inside the Colts’ locker room, few doubted that the transformation from finesse, pass-first team to a physically imposing balanced offense would work.
Andrew Luck and the rest of Indy’s contingent from Stanford saw the same formula turn a stumbling college program into a national contender. The defensive players who had been part of Pagano’s system in Baltimore, such as Cory Redding, or similar defenses around the league already knew it was a proven commodity.
But fans were understandably nervous.
After watching Peyton Manning & Co. make high-scoring shootouts and mind-numbing stats the norm, then seeing Luck do essentially the same thing in last year’s pass-happy offense, many wondered if the Colts were doing the right thing by relying on a more balanced attack. A dismal Week 2 loss to Miami brought out critics from all corners.
They’ve all vanished after seeing the kind of stat sheet that would make any coach happy.
Indy never trailed in producing its most lopsided road win since Oct. 25, 2009.
The Colts rushed for 179 yards and topped the 100-yard mark for the third straight week, the first time that’s happened in Indy since September 1989.
Newly acquired Trent Richardson scored a touchdown on his first carry with the Colts, while Luck and starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw each scored on TD runs, too.
The defense limited San Francisco to 254 yards, 91 on its only scoring drive and 67 on its final series, and forced two turnovers.
Indy still has not lost back-to-back games since Pagano took over as coach last season, improving to 6-0 after losses.
And they did all that without six starters.
Pagano couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
It was as complete a game as I think we’ve played since we’ve been here, he said. Every game is going to be different, so sometimes, you’re going to throw more than you run. But any time you can win the time of possession battle like that, and you win the turnover battle, win the third-down battle ...
Usually, you win.
The only question left is whether the Colts (2-1) can continue winning this way.