It has been less than 24 hours since the Colts' season ended with a 24-9 loss to Baltimore. You can complain about the offensive struggles, the protection issues, the dropped passes, or the Special Teams problems. You can bitterly spout off about Ray Lewis' decade-old murder allegations, or pin your hopes on Peyton Manning vanquishing Baltimore next Sunday, as if either will somehow make you feel better about yesterday’s defeat.
Me? I’m not going to do any of that.
Was it frustrating to see the Colts make enough mistakes to not give themselves a chance to win against a Baltimore team that is beatable? Of course it was. But, the expectations will ramp up for Andrew Luck, Chuck Pagano, and the rest starting in September. For now, this isn't a time to complain. When the frustration subsides after yesterday's disappointment, Colts' fans will come to realize how special 2012 truly was.
In a nine-month span, this franchise let the greatest professional athlete in this city's history walk (not as popular of a decision as the national media would have you believe), drafted a new franchise quarterback after finishing a disastrous 2-14 season, hired a new general manager, hired a new coach in Chuck Pagano, and watched that same coach leave to battle cancer, only to return to the sidelines by the end of the regular season. Oh, and they went 9-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, mostly in comeback fashion, and became the seventh team in NFL history to have a nine-win turnaround in one year.
Think about all the moments from this season: Vinatieri's kick to beat Minnesota for win #1, Reggie's monster game to rally the Colts over Green Bay, the team shaving their heads for their coach, Vick Ballard's acrobatic game-winner in Nashville, Pagano's postgame speech following the Miami victory, Luck-to-Avery in Detroit, the Pagano return press conference on Christmas Eve - several seasons worth of memories from a handful of months.
The Colts rallied behind Chuck Pagano following his leukemia diagnosis
While the 2012 season may not have brought this city the same satisfaction as the Super Bowl championship in 2006, it certainly brought the same amount of pride. And, for that, it will always be remembered.
The Colts proved their doubters - a list that includes me, who had them at 5-11 going into the year - wrong. Sure, they were knocked down several times this season. But, much like their head coach battling a horrific disease, and their rookie quarterback behind a porous offensive line, they kept getting up.
I keep going back to an excerpt from Chuck Pagano’s impassioned postgame speech after the Miami victory.
“You guys were living in a vision, and you weren’t living in circumstances. ‘Cause you know where they had us in the beginning - every last one of them. But, you refused to live in circumstances. That’s why you’re already champions. I’ve got circumstances. You guys understand it, and I understand it. It’s already beat.”
Off the field, Chuck Pagano had circumstances. The Colts had circumstances on it. They stared them in the face, and they overcame them. That alone should be applauded.
A listener tweeted me right after the Baltimore game went final with: "One-and-done. They're out." That's true. Yesterday, the Colts lost.
But, overall, 2012 was unquestionably a win for the Colts and the city of Indianapolis.