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 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Tony Dungy thought these Indianapolis Colts were better than his Super Bowl champions.
They sure didn't look like it Sunday.
A combination of turnovers, dropped passes, inexplicable penalties and defensive breakdowns allowed the Colts to do what few thought possible - end their quest to repeat as NFL champions before ever reaching New England.
``That's how you lose these games,'' Dungy lamented after a 28-24 loss to San Diego. ``More of these games are lost than won, and we did things we hadn't done all season.''
The Colts looked more like the impostors of two years ago, when they lost to eventual champion Pittsburgh, than the defending champions.
Back then, it was a sluggish start that cost them.
On Sunday, the cumulative effect of mistakes did them in.
Peyton Manning threw two interceptions near the goal line, Marvin Harrison fumbled after making his first reception in nearly three months, and unlike last year's AFC championship game, Manning could not deliver one of his trademark winning drives.
That wasn't even the worst part.
Indy's vaunted pass defense, ranked second in the NFL, allowed the Chargers to complete nine passes of at least 17 yards and account for three touchdowns despite playing with a depleted lineup.
Antonio Gates was limited by a dislocated left big toe and never had much of an impact. LaDainian Tomlinson ran seven times for 28 yards before leaving with a bruised left knee early in the second quarter. Quarterback Philip Rivers left after hurting his right knee on the final play of the third quarter, forcing Billy Volek to rally the Chargers late.
``For the guys that were out there, we didn't get a stop and they executed,'' middle linebacker Gary Brackett said.
It left little room for solace.
From uncharacteristic penalties, like Bob Sanders' 15-yard taunting call after Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding missed a 48-yard field goal and a drive-extending 15-yard face mask call against Marlin Jackson on San Diego's winning drive, the Colts did little right.
They looked like a team that had a week off, dropping the franchise to 0-5 all-time after earning playoff byes, a mark that will almost certainly rekindle the debate about whether it should ever take a break.
``I'm not one of those guys,'' left guard Ryan Lilja said. ``We had Marvin back and all our guys back, really, and I think anything you can do to get your guys back and rested is good.''
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