"Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs! You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game! Another game!" These were the famous postgame comments of Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora after a loss on November 25, 2001, which dropped the Colts' record to 4-6. The Colts went to on to finish the season 6-10.
That was the last time the Colts missed the playoffs.
Mora's comments seem to ring true in the ears of Colts fans after last night's overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The Colts are mired in a three-game losing skid, which started after a loss at New England on November 21. During that game, the Colts had mounted a fourth-quarter rally that fell short after a Peyton Manning interception with less than two minutes to play. The interception was Manning's third of the game.
A week later, the Colts came back home to face the San Diego Chargers. Up to this point, the Colts were seemingly invincible at home. Manning threw four interceptions during the game, two of which were ran back for touchdowns. The Colts had 24 rushing yards, showed a weak offensive line and began to reflect the injuries the team has had to endure all season. The Colts lost 36-14.
The loss moved them into a tie for first place in the AFC South with Jacksonville.
Yesterday, the Colts were in desperate need of redemption.
With four games left, who will win the AFC South?
Jacksonville had already won earlier in the day. In order to stay tied for first, Indianapolis needed a win. The game started slowly for the Colts; Peyton threw two interceptions in the first half, and one was run back for a touchdown. At half time, the Colts were down 17-7.
The Colts were able to rally, forcing overtime. But Cowboys kicker David Buehler knocked down a 38-yard field goal for a Dallas win. Despite 365 passing yards from Manning, the Colts only had 37 rushing yards in the game.
The Colts are now in second place in the AFC South. They stand at 6-6, while Jacksonville is 7-5. Colts fans should not be talking about playoffs. Instead, they should be talking about the Colts being able to win another game.
With injuries to Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie, injuries to key defensive starters, a very weak and inexperienced offensive line and absolutely no rushing attack, Peyton Manning is forced to win games almost single-handedly. He is forcing passes and making unwise offensive decisions that he usually does not make.
It seems as though Manning has lost all confidence in both himself and his team.
The goal of reaching the playoffs is still attainable for the Colts. They need to win the remaining four games to have a chance. However, they need to focus on one game at a time, starting with the game Thursday at Tennessee. The Colts will play at Tennessee, at home against Jacksonville, at Oakland and finally at home against Tennessee. The Colts' opponents combined record for the last four games is 23-25.
Winning the AFC South and making the playoffs is still an attainable goal. But right now, Colts fans (and players) need to forget about the playoffs and focus on winning one game after another.
Perhaps then, the playoffs might find the Colts, instead of the other way around.