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Colts Roundup and Recap

Last Article Written: September 4, 1999

Winning Season Is In Sight for Colts

By Mike Devitt

Let's face it: I'm an optimist. It may not always come out that way on paper, but I'm one of those few people who still believes that in the end, the guys in the white hats beat the guys in the black hats, the little kid's sick dog always gets better and everybody lives happily ever after.

I'm so optimistic, in fact, that for the past four years, I've predicted the Colts would finish the season 10-6 and finally host a playoff game at the RCA Dome. Each year, I'd look at the schedule, look at the team's roster, then look at the other teams' rosters, and despite sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I'd still devise a way for the Colts to end up 10-6

I've made these annual predictions without hesitation, often even in the most adverse of conditions. And believe me, if there's one thing the Colts have seen a lot of in the past few years, it's adversity. Three head coaches in four seasons, numerous questionable draft picks and front office moves, a handful of starting quarterbacks and back-to-back 3-13 seasons are enough to shake even the hardiest fan's faith in their team.

As a result, I thought it was time to take a better look at what the Colts will be doing this season and decided to mix things up a little. Therefore, this year I've decided to throw the last four years out the window, break tradition and change my predictions for 1999.

You heard it here first. The Colts will not host a playoff game in Indianapolis this year. And they will not -- I repeat, not -- win ten games.

They'll win nine.

Like I said, I'm an optimist.

Now that you've read such a bold prediction, do you want to know how they'll win those nine games, and which ones they'll win this year? Then read on and enjoy.

1999 Season Predictions in a Nutshell

Week One: Buffalo. The Colts start the season on the right foot by beating the Bills 27-16 at the RCA Dome. Rookie Edgerrin James rushes for 97 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries, while Peyton Manning throws a pair of touchdown passes -- one to Marvin Harrison on the second play of the game -- in leading Indianapolis their first win on opening day since 1996.

Week Two: at New England. Manning and the Colts atone for last year's 29-6 loss by outlasting the Patriots 17-13 at Foxboro Stadium. The defense is the story in this game, as Indianapolis sacks Drew Bledsoe four times and forces three New England turnovers, the last an interception by safety Chad Cota late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.

Week Three: at San Diego. Call it the revenge of Jim Harbaugh. Facing his old teammates for the second straight season, Harbaugh shows the front office he still has a few tricks up his sleeve, passing for only 171 yards but gaining 65 on the ground to beat Indianapolis 16-10 and hand the Colts their first loss of the season. Ken Dilger drops a crucial fourth-down pass that gives the ball back to San Diego and lets them run out the clock.

Week Four: Bye. While there is nothing to report on the field, the team brings in a pair of kickers, including former Colt Cary Blanchard, for tryouts during the bye week. Neither one can beat out incumbent Mike Vanderjagt, however.

Week Five: Miami. In the biggest game of the season to date, the Colts win a defensive slugfest 10-7, sacking Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino six times in the process and limiting Miami's rushing attack to just 82 yards. The Colts' lone touchdown comes midway through the fourth quarter, when reserve tight end Bradford Banta catches a swing pass from Manning and rumbles 27 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

Week Six: at New York Jets. While the Colts have shown definite improvement over last season, they're still no match for Bill Parcells' Jets -- at least not in New York. The Jets hold James to just 46 yards, his worst total of the season to date, and allow only 198 yards of total offense, hammering the Colts 22-10. Cornelius Bennett suffers a slightly sprained left knee during the game, knocking him out of the lineup for the next two weeks.

Week Seven: Cincinnati. In the first of a three-game homestand, Indianapolis shakes off last week's loss to the Jets and comes out firing, racking up 470 yards of offense and 37 points as they paste the Bengals 37-21. Receiver Terence Wilkins returns a punt 91 yards for a touchdown, while fellow wideout E.G. Green catches touchdown passes of 25 and 48 yards from Manning.

Week Eight: Dallas. In a nationally televised game, the Colts show that they are a force to be reckoned with by outdueling the Cowboys 27-21 before a sellout crowd at the RCA Dome. Edgerrin James runs for a career-high 148 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Marvin Harrison takes a short pass from Manning and turns it into an 83-yard score in the second quarter.

Week Nine: Kansas City. Indianapolis closes out its homestand with a 17-6 victory over the hapless Chiefs, intercepting Elvis Grbac four times in the first half before being replaced by Warren Moon. Chad Bratzke intercepts one pass and returns it 17 yards to the Chiefs' six-yard line, where Darick Holmes runs it in for a touchdown two plays later. The Colts finish the first half with a mark of 6-2, their best record after the first eight games since the team started 7-1 in 1977.

Week Ten: at New York Giants. The Colts' second trip of the year to New York proves as fruitless as the first, as the Giants force five Indianapolis turnovers in a 16-0 shutout. Played during a torrential downfall, the Colts manage just 11 first downs the entire game and gain just 41 yards on 19 carries. The Giants' lone touchdown comes on a sack and fumble recovery by defensive end Michael Strahan early in the fourth quarter.

Week Eleven: at Philadelphia. The Colts' 17-7 win against the Eagles comes at a high price. In the third quarter, Peyton Manning suffers an ankle sprain just before halftime. Eagle fans, in their typical display of inhumanity, cheer Manning's injury. Kelly Holcomb takes over for Indianapolis and leads the team to a fourth-quarter field goal to cement the win.

Week Twelve: New York Jets. Loss. Without Manning at the helm, the Colts offense is a mere shell of itself. Holcomb does admirably in his first start of the season, completing 14 of 26 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown to Marvin Harrison, but it isn't enough to stop a Jets team that is now operating like a finely-tuned machine. Keyshawn Johnson destroys both Jeff Burris and Tyrone Poole for a pair of long touchdown receptions as New York sweeps the Colts in the season series 30-14.

Week Thirteen: at Miami. Dolphin coach Jimmy Johnson has been waiting more than two months for his team's rematch against Indianapolis, and without Manning in the lineup, the Colts are outplayed at nearly every level. A rattled Holcomb is intercepted three times and sacked four times, resulting in the team's second loss in as many weeks, a 27-3 shellacking at the hands of Dan Marino and company.

Week Fourteen: New England. A still somewhat gimpy Manning returns to the starting lineup and gives the Colts the emotional boost they have been lacking the past two weeks. Because his mobility is still limited, the Colts attempt only 16 passes, but Manning completes 11 of them, including a 68-yard catch and run by E.G. Green that has to be seen to be believed. Green's spectacular touchdown proves to be the difference in the team's 21-17 victory, giving the Colts eight wins and nearly assuring them a spot in the playoffs.

Week Fifteen: Washington. With Manning nearly fully recovered, the Colts' offense is once again firing on all cylinders, as Indianapolis runs up more than 420 yards of offense in their last home game of the season, a 33-21 win over the Redskins. Tight end Marcus Pollard, somewhat of a forgotten man during the season, catches eight passes for a career-high 113 yards and two touchdowns. Defensive end Shawn King sacks Redskin quarterback Brad Johnson twice, giving him a team-high ten sacks on the season.

Week Sixteen: at Cleveland. If the Colts thought the torrential thunderstorm they played in New York was bad, it's nothing compared to what they face while playing the Browns. With a pounding blizzard, ner gale-force winds and sub-zero temperatures, James and Manning combine for four lost fumbles in a 20-14 loss at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Colts are held to just 210 yards of offense, with the lone highlight being Marvin Harrison's 12th touchdown catch of the season, tying him with Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith for the conference lead.

Week Seventeen: at Buffalo. It's all on the line for the Bills and Colts in the season finale. At 9-6, both teams are tied for the final playoff spot, with the winning team moving on to the postseason. After a seesaw battle that leaves the score tied at 17 at the end of regulation, the Bills win the coin toss and take the opening possession 51 yards downfield, where Buffalo kicker Steve Christie nails a 38-yard field goal to give Buffalo the win and knock the Colts out of the playoffs.

The loss leaves Manning, James and the rest of the Colts stunned at the sudden way their season has ended. Despite losing their final two games of the season, a number of individuals have the most productive seasons of their careers.

Wide receiver Marvin Harrison finishes the season tied for third in the AFC with 88 catches for 1,298 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl berth. Middle linebacker Jeff Brady leads the team in tackles despite missing nearly a month with a high ankle sprain. And running back Edgerrin James leads all rookies with 1,153 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

Despite the individual accomplishments, the most important statistic for any football team is wins and losses, and in the end, the Colts come up just short in that category. And although the team does not achieve its goal of making it to the postseason, the progress made in 1999 helps solidify the foundation that will put the Colts back into the playoffs in the very near future.

What Do You Think?

Now that you've read my predictions for the season, what are your thoughts? Is 9-7 an accurate prediction? Do you think the Colts will win more games? Less? Who will have the most productive season for Indianapolis? Will anyone make the Pro Bowl?

If you'd like to comment on this article, or if you have a prediction of your own for the Colts this season, please feel free to send your feedback to me at the e-mail address below. Thanks in advance, and I look forward to hearing from you.

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Mike Devitt writes the "Twelfth Man" column for the Indianapolis Star-News Online. He can be reached by telephone at (714) 841-9696, or by e-mail at


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