NFL playoffs: It's a 24-hour party for the Paganos — Chuck, John and Sam

Coach Chuck Pagano's Colts stun Chiefs, then Chargers, and defensive coordinator John Pagano, upset Bengals. Their dad, Sam, is thrilled.


Indianapolis and San Diego are moving on in the NFL playoffs.

And Sam Pagano is still catching his breath.

His older son, Chuck, is coach of the Colts, who erased a 28-point second-half deficit Saturday to stun Kansas City.

Sam's younger son, John, is defensive coordinator of the Chargers, who Sunday upset favored Cincinnati, 27-10, ending the Bengals' season with their first home defeat.

About 1,200 miles west, a family erupted in celebration.

"We're sitting here, my wife and I, and we're exhausted," the elder Pagano said from his home in Boulder, Colo. "All this in 24 hours? Usually, they're both on in one day — Chuck in the morning and John in the afternoon — but we're so excited and proud of the boys. Unbelievable!"

The Paganos are a family steeped in football. Sam won three state championships in his 21 years as head coach at Fairview High in Boulder, and his sons were architects of two spectacular wild-card victories over the weekend.

Chuck's Colts advance to play New England in a divisional game Saturday night, and John's Chargers will play Sunday at No. 1 seed Denver.

In the NFC, top-seeded Seattle will play host Saturday to New Orleans, which moved on by winning at Philadelphia. And Sunday, with a 23-20 victory in frigid Green Bay, San Francisco moved on for a Sunday matchup at Carolina.

Sam Pagano, along with his wife, Diana, and their daughter, Jennifer, spent the weekend huddled in his home office, shut off from the world, living and dying with every snap.

"We don't invite people over for games," he said. "I've got a couple buddies that are coaches. But I don't like all the talking and chatter, like I'm watching in a bar. If I was watching Tampa Bay and the Texans, maybe. But these are our sons. We just sweat it out and pray and cuss and get mad."

And cheer. And cheer some more.

"I talked to Chuck when he got home Saturday night," Sam said. "He was excited, of course. We laughed, and he said, 'I really gave them a great halftime talk, Dad. We were down 21, and then we come out and go down by 28 — that did a lot of good!' . . . But as long as you've got [quarterback] Andrew Luck, you've got a chance.

"I told him, 'You've got them in the palm of your hand. They're playing hard. They believe.'"

Sunday, the Chargers were seven-point underdogs and making their first playoff appearance since 2009. Few people gave them much of a chance, especially after they barely made it into the playoffs as a sixth seed, needing to win four in a row for even a prayer of qualifying.

Had the Chargers lost, it would have been the Colts playing the Broncos. By winning, the Chargers will play their AFC West rival for a third time this season.

"John said this morning, 'Dad, one of your sons is coming to Denver,'" Sam said. "I said, 'Well, I want it to be you so you can continue.' This was just the way we wanted it."

The Chargers shut out the high-scoring Bengals in the second half, and finished with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

"When you get four turnovers on the road in a playoff game, you're not going to lose, unless we stink it up on offense," San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. "It was an awesome performance by them."

If the Colts and Chargers were to win their next games, they would be playing each other for the right to go to the Super Bowl.



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