Off and running
Published: Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
BALTIMORE — They got him precisely for this reason.
The Indianapolis Colts signed Adam Vinatieri because of his playoff experience, his accuracy under pressure and his ability to supplement an offense that usually has no trouble moving into field-goal range.
Vinatieri justified the move Saturday in record-setting style, kicking five field goals to carry the Colts past the Baltimore Ravens 15-6 and into the AFC championship game.
Peyton Manning couldn't get Indianapolis into the end zone, and for once it didn't matter. That's because Vinatieri provided the Colts with all the offense they needed.
Although unspectacular, Manning was efficient enough to make up for some of his previous playoff failures and keep alive his hope of playing in the Super Bowl for the first time. All he needed to do was get the Colts close enough for Vinatieri, who did the rest.
"I'm not sure if we ever won one before in the nine years I've played here without scoring a touchdown. My guess is no," Manning said. "You want to get touchdowns and it was frustrating to have to settle for field goals. But we saw how our defense was playing early, and we thought field goals would be enough — if we got enough of them."
Vinatieri won two Super Bowls with late field goals and scored 117 points in the postseason for New England. He was signed by Indianapolis as a free agent to replace Mike Vanderjagt, who missed a 46-yard field goal with 17 seconds left last season in the Colts' 21-18 playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
Vinatieri justified the acquisition with a flawless performance against the Ravens, connecting on field goal tries of 23, 42, 51, 48 and 35 yards. The fourth kick gave him an NFL-record 33 career postseason field goals.
"Baltimore is the No. 1 defense in the league. Points are at a premium with them," Vinatieri said. "It's hard to score on those guys. The way our defense played — they stepped up and kept them out of the end zone the whole time — sometimes you win like that."
Indianapolis (14-4) never trailed in eliminating the No. 2-seeded Ravens (13-4), who were coming off a first-round bye and poised to extract a measure of revenge against the franchise that broke the hearts of Baltimore fans by sneaking out of the city to Indianapolis in March 1984.
"This football team is as disappointed as our fans are, which is matched tenfold by the players," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "(The fans) were deserving of better than that, but it just wasn't going to happen and we will move forward now."
The third-seeded Colts, however, will next face the winner of today's game between San Diego and New England.
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