From Comcast SportsNetINDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Chuck Pagano provided the inspiration, then Andrew Luck delivered a record-setting performance in yet another win for the surprising Indianapolis Colts.After a 23-20 victory over Miami, the ailing coach offered even more encouragement.Picked by many to be among the NFL's weakest team, the rebuilding Colts are now in the playoff conversation at 5-3."I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision, and you weren't living in circumstances," Pagano said Sunday, surrounded by his players and with interim Bruce Arians at his side after the Colts' third straight win. "You know where they had us in the beginning, every last one of them. But you refused to live in circumstances and you decided consciously as a team and as a family to live in a vision, and that's why you bring things home like what you bring home today. That's why you're already champions and well on your way.Luck wasn't too concerned that he had just broken Cam Newton's year-old record for yards passing in a game by a rookie or even that his team had another victory. He just wanted to live up to the message from his coach, who has been receiving treatment for leukemia since being diagnosed on Sept. 26."His presence is felt every day in the facility," Luck said. "But to see him in the flesh, in the locker room, to hear him speak I think gave all the guys a boost."It seemed to give Pagano a boost, too."I've got circumstances. You guys understand it, I understand it," Pagano told them. "It's already beat. It's already beat. My vision that I'm living is to see two more daughters get married, dance at their weddings and then lift the Lombardi Trophy several times. I'm dancing at two more weddings and we're hoisting that trophy together, men. Congratulations, I love all of you."The Colts have now won more than twice as many games in half a season as they did in 16 games last year, and this week's discussion will again focus on Luck's astounding start, Pagano's inspiring message and talk of reaching the playoffs.Luck threw for 433 yards and two touchdowns. He topped Newton's mark of 432 and tied another by becoming the NFLs' second rookie quarterback to produce four 300-yard games in a season. The other: Peyton Manning, the quarterback he replaced.Pagano wasn't forgotten on the field, either. Reggie Wayne traded high-fives with fans right above the (hash)Chuckstrong sign in the south end zone after scoring a 9-yard touchdown.Luck had it all working against the Dolphins (4-4). He completed 30 of 48 passes, converted 13 of 19 third-down chances and remained under control even when he started moving around in the pocket.It was an uncanny performance with Wayne hauling in a high pass with an incredible toe-tap on the end line. Rookie T.Y. Hilton made a leaping 36-yard TD catch that Luck threw into double coverage, and no matter what the Dolphins did, they couldn't stop Luck or a Colts team that knew Pagano was in the coaches' box."We knew we'd have to disrupt him (Luck) a little bit. But we weren't detailed enough, we weren't disciplined enough on our rush," Miami coach Joe Philbin said. "When you have the No. 1 defense on third down, and when a team converts 69 percent of the time on third down, it's a different feel."The matchup between two of this season's rookie quarterbacks and two of this season's biggest surprise teams was every bit as good as advertised.There was only one first-half punt. The teams combined for 881 total yards without any turnovers, and Miami's Ryan Tannehill, who was limited in practice all week and considered questionable, was 22 of 38 for 290 yards with one TD.The difference: Luck just made more big plays."The kid, he continues to amaze," Wayne said after catching seven passes for 78 yards. "Hopefully I can help, you know, add on to his legacy that he's about to build."About to? He's already well on his way.With the Colts trailing 17-13, Luck hooked up with Hilton on the leaping grab to make it 20-17 with 1:49 left in the third quarter.Miami tied the score on Dan Carpenter's 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and then Luck immediately led the Colts on a 13-play, 69-yard drive to set up Adam Vinatieri's decisive 43-yard field goal with 5:58 to go.Indy's defense stopped the Dolphins on their final two possessions and Indy sealed the win with a Vick Ballard's 19-yard run with under a minute to go -- a fitting end for the man who promised to win games with defense and power football when he was first hired as coach last winter.But on Sunday, the Colts were just glad he was around to watch it all in person.NOTES:Colts defensive end Robert Mathis sacked Tannehill in the first quarter, giving him a sack in his eighth straight game. .... Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake recorded a sack in his fifth consecutive game. ... Wayne's TD moved him past former college and pro teammate Edgerrin James into third on the franchise's career list with 76 TDs.... Indianapolis honored the new WNBA champion Indiana Fever just before halftime. ... Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake recorded a sack in his fifth consecutive game. ... The Colts had a long postgame injury list that included cornerback Jerraud Powers (toe), right tackle Winston Justice (knee), running back Donald Brown (knee), receiver Donnie Avery (hip), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (back) and center Samson Satele (back). ... Miami linebacker Kevin Burnett, cornerback Nolan Carroll and defensive tackle Paul Soliai all sustained undisclosed injuries.
If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J. Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.
Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.
But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
In the meantime, there is beer.
SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 40-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 on Sunday:
1. A major step backward
So much for the 49ers’ somewhat-impressive streak of close losses.
There was nothing encouraging about what transpired in the 49ers' worst loss at Levi’s Stadium. It was also the franchise's worst home loss since Mike Singletary's team absorbed a 45-10 thumping against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 11, 2009.
Was there anything positive to take from this game?
“No, not right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was disappointing. I think all three phases, players and coaches, we’ve got to play better than that, a lot better to give ourselves a chance to win.”
The competitive nature of the 49ers’ past five games was one thing. But with a big home loss on such an emotional day, it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over for Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. The 49ers looked like a team devoid of any leadership, and brings more scrutiny onto the organization’s decision last week to release linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
Now, the 49ers face a crossroads. With another cross-country trip ahead, the 49ers have to regroup in a hurry in order to avoid another embarrassing blowout against the Philadelphia Eagles.
2. Beathard’s first start
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard certainly was not the reason the 49ers got blown out. In his first NFL start, he showed a lot of toughness, which was to be expected. He was sacked five times. But most of those sacks could have been avoided. He has to get rid of the ball quicker, especially on three-step drops.
Beathard also showed some promise, too. He let the ball fly deep for Marquise Goodwin, who caught four passes for 80 yards. Beathard completed 22 of 38 passes for 235 yards.
Beathard accounted for the 49ers’ only touchdown with a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There seems to be little doubt it was in the best interest of the organization to begin evaluating what it has for the future with the permanent switch from Brian Hoyer to Beathard.
3. Dwight Clark’s Day
The 49ers, of course, did nothing to evoke any memories of the great teams on which Dwight Clark played. Well, they did look a lot like Clark’s first team with the 49ers.
The 49ers of 1979 lost their first seven games of the season. This year’s team matched that start for the worst beginning to a season in franchise history.
More than 35 of Clark’s teammates off the 1981 Super Bowl team were in attendance to honor a pay tribute to Clark, who is battling ALS. Now in a wheelchair and considerably lighter, Clark delivered some poignant remarks at halftime.
Clark, 60, told his old teammate, Keena Turner, who works as vice president of football affairs, that all he wanted was to see some of his old teammates.
“And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in, so I could see them one more time,” Clark said.