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 422 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.
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 Reggie 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.
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.
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 defence 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 defence and power football when he was first hired as coach last winter.
Marshawn Lynch ran for 124 yards and a touchdown, rookie QB Russell Wilson threw three first-half touchdowns, and the Seattle Seahawks overcame 182 yards rushing by Adrian Peterson in a win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The matchup between the top two rushers in the NFL — Peterson and Lynch — didn't disappoint with Peterson having his best game since 2008.
Lynch ran for a 3-yard TD in the third quarter, while Wilson threw TD passes of 11 yards to Sidney Rice, and TDs of six and 11 yards to Golden Tate for the Seahawks (5-4). Peterson and the Vikings (5-4) had 197 yards rushing in the first half, but only had 46 yards rushing in the second half. Quarterback Christian Ponder was 11 of 22 for 63 yards.
Isaac Redman ran for 147 yards and the winning touchdown with 4:02 remaining Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers rallied past the Giants.
The Steelers (5-3) snapped New York's four-game winning streak by overcoming some uncharacteristic sloppiness and dominating the second half.
Temporary relief from the destruction of Superstorm Sandy was what New York's fans sought, and the Giants (6-3) provided it for a while. But they couldn't stop Redman or touchdowns of 51 yards for Mike Wallace and 4 yards for Emmanuel Sanders on passes from Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers arrived in New Jersey hours before the game, which might have accounted for their carelessness. They had the fewest giveaways in the NFL entering the game, but were neglectful with the ball and in pass coverage; cornerback Keenan Lewis had 87 yards on two pass interference penalties, and they wasted some great kick returns, too.
Michael Turner had a tiebreaking three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Matt Bryant kicked four field goals and the Atlanta Falcons beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night to extend their run as the NFL's only unbeaten team.
Turner had 20 carries for 102 yards and Matt Ryan had a season-high 342 yards passing for the Falcons (8-0), who took their first lead on Turner's TD with 14:21 left in the game.
Tony Romo completed 6 of 6 passes for 78 yards, including a 21-yard scoring pass to Kevin Ogletree, on the Cowboys' touchdown drive later in the fourth.
The Falcons then worked the clock, holding the ball for 5 minutes, 4 seconds, leaving only 17 seconds left after Bryant's 32-yard field goal.
Romo completed three short passes before the game ended on a pass to Felix Jones, who was tackled near the Atlanta 22.
Matt Schaub threw two touchdown passes, Arian Foster ran for 111 yards against Buffalo's NFL-worst rushing defence and the Houston Texans beat former top pick Mario Williams and the Bills 21-9 on Sunday.
Andre Johnson caught eight passes for 118 yards and Foster scored for the fifth straight game for Houston (7-1).
Williams had a sack and five tackles in his return to Reliant Stadium after he signed with the Bills (3-5) in the off-season. The Texans made Williams the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft and he's still Houston's career sacks leader (53).
Schaub won for the 10th time in 11 starts. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 268 yards and threw multiple TD passes for the second straight game.
Peyton Manning overcame a pair of interceptions by throwing three touchdown passes Sunday, rallying Denver to a 31-23 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Trindon Holliday also returned a kickoff a Broncos-record 105 yards for a touchdown.
Manning improved to 8-0 career against Cincinnati (3-5), which has lost four in a row for the first time in two years. This win didn't come so easily.
The four-time MVP threw a pair of interceptions — one in the end zone — that led to 10 points and a 20-17 Cincinnati lead early in the fourth quarter.
That's when the Broncos (5-3) have been at their best.
Manning threw a 1-yard touchdown to tight end Joel Dreessen that put Denver back ahead. After Andy Dalton underthrew a pass under pressure that was picked off by Champ Bailey, Manning put it away with a 4-yard pass to Eric Decker with 3:36 remaining.
Brian Urlacher became the latest Chicago defender to return an interception for a touchdown and Jay Cutler threw three TD passes to Brandon Marshall as the Bears routed the Tennessee Titans 51-20 on Sunday.
Cornerback Charles Tillman forced four fumbles and Chicago created five turnovers while winning its sixth in a row.
The Bears (7-1) scored a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter. They took control by forcing three turnovers in the first 13 minutes and turning them into 14 points. Urlacher went 46 yards for his score.
The Titans (3-6) lost their second straight with Chicago fans taking over LP Field, booing any video highlights featuring the rival Green Bay Packers and frequently chanting "Let's go, Bears."
Tennessee's lone highlight when Chris Johnson scored on an 80-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Tom Crabtree had a 72-yard touchdown that was Green Bay's longest of the season, Randall Cobb added two scoring catches and the Green Bay Packers got a 31-17 victory Sunday that handed the Arizona Cardinals their fifth straight loss.
The Packers (6-3) finished with a season-high 176 yards rushing on 39 carries, the first time in a month they've cracked the century mark.
James Jones also had a touchdown reception, his career-high eighth of the season, and Green Bay goes into its bye week with a four-game winning streak.
The break comes at a good time for the Packers, who lost Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson and Bryan Bulaga to injuries.
John Skelton was 23 of 46 for 306 yards, his most passing yardage since last December. But repeated drops by the Cardinals receivers kept Arizona (4-5) from getting anything going consistently.
Rookie Doug Martin rushed for a franchise-record 251 yards and four touchdowns and Ahmad Black intercepted a Carson Palmer pass after Oakland had cut an 18-point deficit to three late in the fourth quarter and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held on to beat the Raiders.
Martin, who was born in Oakland, had a memorable homecoming for the Bucs (4-4) by scoring on runs of 1, 45, 67 and 70 yards in the second half as he gashed what had been an improved run defence for the Raiders (3-5).
Martin, the 31st pick in April out of Boise State, became the first back since at least 1940 to score on three TD runs of at least 45 yards in one game, according to STATS LLC.
Mikel Leshoure ran for three touchdowns, Calvin Johnson got involved early and the Detroit Lions turned in their most complete victory of the season, 31-14 over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Detroit dominated from start to finish, building a three-score lead before halftime and coasting after the break. It was a much different feeling for the Lions (4-4), who trailed in the second half in each of their other wins.
Leshoure finished with 70 yards rushing and scored on runs of 7, 1 and 8 yards, becoming the first in franchise history to run for three touchdowns in the first half. Not even Hall of Famer Barry Sanders accomplished that feat.
Johnson, who got off to slow starts in Detroit's last three games, had five receptions for 99 yards before the Jaguars (1-7) even recorded a first down. He finished with seven catches for 129 yards despite playing through a knee injury.
Joe Flacco threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith with 4:26 left as the Baltimore Ravens won their 11th straight game inside the AFC North with a 25-15 comeback victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Smith caught Flacco's strike and spun away from cornerback Joe Haden as the Ravens (6-2) beat the Browns (2-7) for the 10th consecutive time. It was also Baltimore's 15th straight win following a loss, and helped the Ravens shake off a 30-point loss to Houston two weeks ago.
Baltimore improved to 5-0 after a bye week under coach John Harbaugh, who is 10-0 in his career against Cleveland.
Phil Dawson kicked five field goals for the Browns, who were again competitive but failed to score a touchdown on five trips inside Baltimore's 20-yard line.
Cam Newton completed 13 of 23 passes for 201 yards with a touchdown and ran eight times for 37 yards and a score as the Carolina Panthers snapped a five-game losing streak Sunday with a 21-13 win over the Washington Redskins.
The Panthers were in desperate need of a win after a series of close defeats that had players questioning whether the team had any leadership. Newton responded with one of his best games of the season, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith and an 82-yard completion that set up a score.
Robert Griffin III was 23 for 39 for 215 yards, ran 11 times for 53 yards and was sacked four times as the Redskins lost their third straight and fell to 3-6.
The Panthers are 2-6.