The tone coming out of Indianapolis this morning in the wake of the Colts' 24-9 playoff loss to the Ravens isn't as somber as you might think. Instead, there is still a lot of buzz over what this Colts team, 2-14 a year ago, improbably accomplished under first-year head coach Chuck Pagano, who spent much of the season battling leukemia.
Here is how some of the Indianapolis media saw the game:
Reggie Hayes, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
"What a run. It was incredible and improbable, from the comeback against the Green Bay Packers after Pagano left the team to fight leukemia, to the thriller in Detroit, to 11 wins and a playoff berth. The Colts entered the season with no expectations – Peyton Manning and most of his friends were gone – and they became a contender. We cheered for Pagano's recovery, one of those heartwarming stories that rise above X's and O's. ...
The difference in this final game came down to the difference between a team knowing its era is closing and one that knows its era is in its infancy. The Ravens were certainly inspired by linebacker Ray Lewis' final home game, even if all the dancing and histrionics seemed silly from the viewpoint of those who just chronicled Pagano's fight for his life. ...
The better team, the more experienced team, the more complete team, won."
Craig Kelley, colts.com
"The 29th season of Colts football in Indianapolis was also the 29th year of coaching for Chuck Pagano. What Pagano was able to build in 2012, though missing 12 games while fighting illness, was an extraordinarily close-knit team that battled with its utmost ability.
That fight ended in Baltimore on Sunday in a 24-9 loss to the Ravens. ... The Colts were not able to get the lead once on Sunday. While the offense did not produce touchdowns on three trips in the red zone, the defense yielded eight plays exceeding 20 yards, including four that bit off at least 43 yards.
Indianapolis fought just as gamely as it had all season, but it could not make the plays like it had in a regular season that produced 11 victories."
Bob Kravitz, Indianapolis Star
" Magic, it appears, has an expiration date.
After all the compelling, inspiring stories, after all the ridiculous fourth-quarter comebacks, after the greatest comeback of them all -- Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano's return after being diagnosed with leukemia -- the magical mystery tour is over....
Too many big plays for Baltimore. Too much pass-rush pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Too little sustained offense from a team that couldn't find its mojo, or the end zone. Too many deep balls to Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin, who had his way with Colts defenders Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler. This isn't how Hollywood movies are supposed to end. ...
Here's what I found when we talked to team owner Jim Irsay and Pagano and players in the locker room: I found a team that was wounded and hurt and disappointed, but hardly crestfallen. I found a team that was enormously proud of what it accomplished this past year, a team that can't wait to see how good they can be with another couple of draft classes, a few free agents and some experience."
Philip B. Wilson, Indianapolis Star
"The Indianapolis Colts couldn’t keep this inspiring ride going for another week Sunday because of two shortcomings that dogged them most of the season. They couldn’t defend the pass well enough. And they couldn’t protect QB Andrew Luck consistently to give the rookie passer a chance to produce more than three field goals. ...
Although the ride ended with a loss, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and the ChuckStrong fan movement made it a season to remember."