INDIANAPOLIS – 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.
“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.
“What a day, what a day,” he said.
Karim swung the game with the kickoff return just seconds after the Texans took their only lead, and when quarterback Andrew 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 next weekend. The slumping Texans (12-4) have lost three of their last four and fell to the third seed in the AFC, hosting Cincinnati on Saturday instead of enjoying a bye.
“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.
Colts 28, Texans 16
Ind—Fleener 1 pass from Luck (Vinatieri kick)
Hou—FG S.Graham 51
Hou—FG S.Graham 37
Ind—Ballard 1 run (Vinatieri kick)
Hou—Foster 13 run (S.Graham kick)
Hou—FG S.Graham 37
Ind—Karim 101 kickoff return (Vinatieri kick)
Ind—Hilton 70 pass from Luck (Vinatieri kick)
|Total Net Yards||352||265|
|Time of Poss.||28:51||31:09|
RUSHING—Houston, Foster 16-96, Tate 2-7, Schaub 2-(minus 1). Indianapolis, Ballard 27-78, Allen 1-2, Luck 5-1.
PASSING—Houston, Schaub 24-36-2-275. Indianapolis, Luck 14-28-0-191.
RECEIVING—Houston, Johnson 12-141, Walter 3-51, Daniels 3-27, Foster 2-23, Casey 2-11, Posey 1-16, G.Graham 1-6. Indianapolis, Hilton 4-111, Wayne 4-40, Allen 2-21, Ballard 2-9, Moore 1-9, Fleener 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Houston, S.Graham 52 (WR).