The Indianapolis Colts know they have developed a reputation as a disappointing playoff team.
“I guess most people would say we haven’t done very well, we haven’t won too many,” coach Tony Dungy said. “A playoff win is the next step for us.”
The Colts look to reverse their recent postseason misfortunes as they face the Denver Broncos at the RCA Dome in an AFC wild-card game.
The Colts have lost five straight playoff games since 1995 and has not won a postseason game at home since the 1970 season when they were based in Baltimore.
Quarterback Peyton Manning has led the Colts to the playoffs in four of his five seasons with Indianapolis, but owns an 0-3 postseason record. Dungy has lost in the first round in his last three postseason appearances, with both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Colts.
Last season, Indianapolis lost 41-0 to the New York Jets in the wild-card round, the worst postseason defeat in franchise history.
But this season, the Colts are hoping they can erase the memory of all those early exits.
“We’ll get another chance and I think we have the players to do it,” Dungy said.
Manning has heard a lot of criticism for his postseason failures.
“You’ve got to take everything that comes with it the criticism and the blame,” he said. “I feel I can handle that. That’s why not many guys can handle the position.
“I don’t try to hide from it. I don’t make excuses for it. We have a chance this year to try to win a championship. It starts this week.”
In his three playoff games, Manning has averaged just 186 passing yards— well below his career average of 259 per game—and thrown for just one touchdown.
He’s coming off an incredible regular season, one that saw him pass for an NFL-best 4,267 yards en route to being named the AP’s co-NFL MVP with Tennessee’s Steve McNair. Manning also threw 29 touchdown passes, good for second in the league behind Green Bay’s Brett Favre.
Manning’s favorite target, Marvin Harrison, caught 94 passes for 1,272 yards.
The Colts beat the Houston Texans 20-17 in their season finale to win the AFC South, their first division title since taking the AFC East 1999.
However, Dungy was disappointed with the performance of his team, which needed Mike Vanderjagt’s NFL-record 41st straight field goal as time expired to get the win.
“It’s a good feeling to be division champs, that’s been one of our goals since training camp,” Dungy said. “But we were not as sharp as we would have liked to have been or as we need to be to win in the playoffs.”
The narrow win came just one week after Indianapolis ran a franchise-low 37 plays in a 31-17 home loss to Denver. The Broncos ran for 227 yards even without their top rusher, Clinton Portis, and held Indianapolis to a season-low 183 yards.
Portis, who missed the last two games of the season with a sprained ankle, should be 100 percent for this game. The second-year back helped the Broncos rush for a franchise-record 2,629 yards, eclipsing the previous record by more than 150 yards.
The Broncos lost their season finale 31-3 to Green Bay with seven starters, including quarterback Jake Plummer, on the bench.
Denver has not won a playoff game since winning the 1999 Super Bowl over the Atlanta Falcons. Their last playoff appearance came in 2000 when they lost 21-3 to Baltimore in the first round.