|12th win will put Colts in their own NFL class|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 10 December 2007 13:04|
In Indianapolis, it has become part of the Colts' annual routine.
After wrapping up their eighth playoff appearance in nine years Sunday and all but clinching their fifth straight AFC South title, the Colts stand on the precipice of another historic achievement. By winning just one of its final three regular-season games, Indy will become the first team in league history with five straight 12-win seasons - something even the perfect Patriots can't claim.
``I was wondering about it,'' the Colts coach said Monday, a day after winning in Baltimore. ``It's not easy to do. Before I got here, I had never coached on a team that won 12 games. I played on a team in Pittsburgh that won 14 once, but it's hard to do year in and year out.''
Especially in today's challenging environment of salary cap restrictions, tougher schedules and, of course, the propensity for season-altering injuries. None of those potential obstacles, however, has derailed the Colts (11-2).
Only one other team, the Dallas Cowboys from 1992-95, won 12 times in four straight years. The Colts can break that mark Sunday at Oakland or by winning either of their final two home games.
Given the way Indy has performed over the past month, the milestone seems a lock.
After starting 7-0 and then enduring a two-game slump in November, the Colts have rebounded with four straight wins - each more impressive than the last.
They survived a low-scoring affair to beat Kansas City; recovered from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit at Atlanta to win 31-13; took control quickly against Jacksonville and held off a late rally for a 28-25 victory; and built a 30-0 second-quarter lead Sunday en route to a 44-20 drubbing of the Ravens.
They've even won those games without injured Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison and Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney, who is out for the season after having foot surgery.
So how have the Colts persevered?
``It takes everyone,'' Dungy said. ``We've had contributions from everybody on this 53-man unit. That's what you try to do when you go to training camp is develop a 53-man roster in which everyone contributes.''
In the Colts' case, Dungy truly means every one.
Of the nine defensive linemen listed on the active roster, eight have at least one sack. Nine players have interceptions and eight offensive players, including such previously anonymous names as Luke Lawton and Kenton Keith, have scored touchdowns.
Yet they've won seven games by at least 18 points and have overcome a grueling schedule.
Indy has already played in five prime-time games, has twice endured rigorous travel itineraries on short weeks, and is now in the midst of back-to-back road trips that take them from one coastal city (Baltimore) to another (Oakland).
To owner Jim Irsay, who served as the team's general manager during some of the Colts' bleakest years, the five-year streak is something that will remain part of the lore of the Dungy and Peyton Manning era.
``It really is something special,'' Irsay told The Associated Press on Monday. ``You try to make the playoffs and win the division, and you see that many wins and realize we've had a game or two in some seasons where at the end we were resting people. That's not even a true 16-game season and we've won 12 or more. It's exciting, and I'm very proud of having that mark.''
Yes, the Colts still have some hurdles to overcome.
Defensive end Robert Mathis, who leads them with seven sacks, sprained both knees in Sunday night's game and was scheduled for MRI tests Monday. Starting safety Antoine Bethea left early Sunday night with a sprained right knee and was scheduled for an MRI. Keith, the backup to running back Joseph Addai, also was scheduled for an MRI after reinjuring his sprained thumb at Baltimore.
Dungy had no updates Monday, nor did he say when Harrison might return.
But Dungy always insists the absences are no excuse for losing, and over the past five years, he hasn't had to look for many explanations.
Except when it comes to how the Colts have won so many games so many times.
``I always tell the team that winning three of four is championship football,'' he said. ``I never say it takes X number or whatever it is, because we've got a chance to win them all. If it turns into 12 wins, great. But I would not have foreseen it when I came here.''