There’s no denying the Indianapolis Colts have been knocked down several times.
Head coach Chuck Pagano has been reminding his players lately with video of boxing and UFC fights that they’re not knocked out.
They still have a shot at the title. Or so he is hell-bent on trying to make them believe it, however far-fetched that seems to the outside world.
The Colts can go a long way to securing a third consecutive AFC South Division title and fourth straight playoff berth with a win Sunday against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Question is, who will throw the knockout punch?
And perhaps another question that could be asked: Where was that fighting spirit in the last two games, both 35-point embarrassments?
The reality is the Colts can wipe those nightmares clean by answering the bell against the Texans. But if they lose, well, realistically there’s no reason to expect the guys to get back up off the canvas.
Pagano broached the boxing subject when asked about injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who will start despite a rib separation that makes heavy breathing painful. The fight-fan of a coach made reference to three bouts between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward.
“Gatti came to the corner in the fourth round, broke his hand on Ward’s hip and said, ‘I think my hand is broke,’” Pagano said. “The trainer said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘My hand is broke.’ ‘What do you want me to do?’ He goes, ‘I guess I’ll keep fighting.’ ‘OK, go finish the fight.’
“So that’s what we told him, ‘What do you want me to do, Matt?’ So what, now what? We’re going to take care of him. He’s a warrior. He’s a tough S-O-you know what. He’s going to go play well. Really good football. And we’re going to keep his butt clean. Protect our butts off for him.”
This week, Pagano showed players a highlight reel from UFC champion Conor McGregor, whose latest UFC 194 title bout last week made history for the fastest finish in just 13 seconds.
Players said their coach’s analogy fired them up. We find out if that’s true come Sunday.
“So what, now what?” Pagano asked. “What are you going to do? You got to answer. You got to finish the race.”
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis said, “Yeah, pretty much the gist of it is if you get knocked down nine times, get up a 10th time. Keep fighting because it’s never over. There’s always a puncher’s chance.”
It’s understandable for many to be skeptical. The Colts have allowed 96 points in the past two losses and failed to score an offensive touchdown at Jacksonville last week.
But Pagano isn’t trying to sell reporters or fans on the motivational message. He’s challenging his players by showing them toughness. It’s a last-ditch plea, really, to try to get the most out of his guys.
The Colts have several fighters, guys who have been counted out before in their careers, players like Mathis, who was too small, too slow and didn’t come from a big-time college program yet became the franchise’s all-time leader with 115 sacks.
But will it be enough?
As another boxing adage goes, everyone has a plan until they get hit.
We shall soon see if the Colts have what it takes to withstand the Texans’ best shot and deliver that knockout punch.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.