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Archive for Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Colts trying to end postseason failures

December 31, 2003

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— The Indianapolis Colts want to forget their painful past.

They have lost five straight playoff games since 1995 and haven't won a home playoff game since the 1970 season.

Coach Tony Dungy has endured three straight first-round exits in either Tampa Bay or Indianapolis, and Peyton Manning has done just about everything except win in the playoffs.

This week coaches and players again are being peppered with the annual question: Can Indianapolis win a playoff game?

"We'll get another chance, and I think we have the players to do it," Dungy said.

The Colts (12-4) traditionally have stumbled this time of year.

Tennessee's Eddie George beat them in the 1999 playoffs with a 68-yard touchdown run. The next year, they lost at Miami when Mike Vanderjagt missed a 49-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Miami's Lamar Smith ran for 209 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown in overtime to win it.

Last year, Indianapolis was embarrassed in a 41-0 loss against the New York Jets, the worst playoff defeat in franchise history.

Some have tried to pin the blame on Manning or Dungy, suggesting they can't win big games. But the Colts' playoff hex began long before Manning or Dungy ever wore a horseshoe.

While the Colts are not dealing with folklore such as the Curse of the Bambino or the Curse of the Billy Goat like the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, the Colts have endured similar frustrations.

Since beating Dallas 16-13 in the fifth Super Bowl, the Colts are just 2-11 in postseason games -- a mark they intend to change Sunday when they play host Denver (10-6) in their second home playoff game since 1977.

"We lost three in a row to Oakland and Pittsburgh when I was there," former Baltimore Colts quarterback Bert Jones said. "If you look it up, Oakland and Pittsburgh were pretty good teams."

The Raiders and Steelers won five Super Bowls in six years, including all three years they beat Jones' Colts in the mid-1970s.

While part of the trouble has been the opposition, since moving to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts have played indoors and the results have been telling.

In five postseason games played in cold-weather environments, the Colts have been outscored 148-61, with only one win -- 10-7 in 1995 at Kansas City.

They actually beat San Diego in a warm-weather game 35-20. They lost 19-16 in their only other playoff game in Indianapolis, against the Titans.

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