It was nice enough for the Indianapolis Colts that they picked up their third win of the season, exceeding the total put up by the franchise in the entire 2011 campaign. But what made the 17-13 win over the Cleveland Browns truly special was that head coach Chuck Pagano, who has been on indefinite leave as he undergoes leukemia treatment, got to watch the game from his home.
Pagano was released from Indiana University Health Simon Cancer Center earlier on Sunday, and was able to see the game from his couch. Team owner Jim Irsay told the team of Pagano's release from the hospital after the game.
"I was more thrilled with that than the win,'' quarterback Andrew Luck said. Luck ran for both of Indianapolis' touchdowns on the day. Receiver Reggie Wayne who has known Pagano since the two men worked together at Miami 16 years ago, seemed even happier.
"He's got to be on the up-and-up," Wayne said. "No matter how much he wants to get out, if he ain't right, they're not going to let him out ...We know what's important. His rest is important. Whenever the time allows him to come and see us, we're ready to see him. Until then, we want him to get his rest and do the things he's supposed to do."
Wayne also joked that his team might have had Pagano wondering if he'd have to return to the hospital after the Colts rebuffed some potential fourth-quarter heroics.
Pagano was admitted to the hospital upon the diagnosis on Wednesday, Sept. 29, and the team announced Pagano's condition on Oct. 1. The 51-year-old Pagano was hired to replace Jim Caldwell on Jan. 25; it was one of the major moves in a sweeping franchise upheaval that also included Luck taking Peyton Manning's place as the face of the franchise.
Despite his condition, Pagano has done all he can to inspire his team. He sent his email message to his players soon after he was admitted.
"My condition will not determine my position. I understand the condition but choose to focus on my position. That is to stay positive and SERVE.
"WE WILL, WE CAN, WE MUST. WE HAVE NO CHOICE. BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. WE WILL OVERCOME.
"IT'S ALL IN THE PROPER STATE OF MIND."
And that's why Pagano's players are so thrilled that he's back home -- they know that he's not out of the woods by any means, but they've seen the perfect distillation of that proper state of mind, and it's also paying dividends on the field.
"He was at the house, and we're really excited about that," offensive coordinator and interim head coach Bruce Arians said about his colleague after Sunday's win.
"That's probably as big as the win today. ... I'm sure he's feeling great right now."
No question, and for all the right reasons.