NO MYSTERY

Head Coach Tony Dungy said there was no mystery around the Colts' 23-17 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers Saturday night. The Colts made mistakes late, including seven penalties in the fourth quarter and overtime.

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Colts Made Too Many Mistakes Late to Win Saturday, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – A day later, Tony Dungy said there wasn't much mystery.

Dungy, who concluded his seventh season as the Colts' head coach Saturday night, said a loss in the first round of the AFC playoffs to the San Diego Chargers came about because of a few simple and obvious reasons.

The Chargers won the field-position battles.

The Colts made too many mistakes late.

And when it came time to make big plays, the Chargers did and the Colts didn't.

"That part was disappointing, that we didn't play with a little better poise down the stretch," Dungy said Sunday, a day after the Colts' 23-17 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Cal., Saturday.

"We didn't do the things that needed to be done to close out the game."

The Colts, who won 12 or more games for an NFL-record sixth consecutive regular season and who qualified for the postseason for a seventh consecutive season, took a 17-14 lead midway through the third quarter and held it until Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding kicked a 26-yard field goal with :33 remaining in regulation.

San Diego running back Darren Sproles' 22-yard touchdown run 6:20 into overtime gave the Chargers a second postseason victory over the Colts in as many seasons.

"We just didn't make plays when it was our time to make them," Colts center Jeff Saturday said. "They made the big plays in the key moments and that's what wins playoff football games."

The Colts took a three-point lead on a 72-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peyton Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne with 8:10 remaining in the third quarter, then failed to score on three consecutive drives while holding the three-point lead.

"When we had a chance to put it away, we couldn't quite get that one score," Dungy said. "We had the ball a couple of times when we were up. We could have made it a two-score game, and we couldn't do it."

Starting from their 20 after Brock recovered a fumble in the end zone, the Colts went three-and-out, and a series later, they started from their 21 after an interception by safety Antoine Bethea. Indianapolis produced three first downs on that possession before punting.

The Colts started their ensuing possession on their 1 with 2:41 remaining, but on 3rd-and-2 from the Indianapolis 9, linebacker Tim Dobbins sacked Manning at the 1.

"Like most playoff games, this one came down to fundamental football and making plays under pressure in the fourth quarter, and doing what it takes to win close games," Dungy said. "We didn't do it and they did."

The Colts were penalized seven times in the fourth quarter and overtime, including three penalties on the Chargers' game-winning overtime drive. Defensive tackle Eric Foster was penalized for defensive holding, and a holding penalty on cornerback Tim Jennings turned an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-8 from the Indianapolis 40 into a first down.

Linebacker Clint Session was called for a 15-yard face-mask penalty.

All three penalties gave the Chargers first downs.

"We had seven penalties in the fourth quarter and overtime, which you just can't have in close games," Dungy said. "That was the difference. . . .

"We had some penalties that were hard to explain. We're not playing our technique, not doing things the way we should do them and you just can't have those things happen in close, tight games. Most playoff games are going to be tight.

"We've won some tight ones, but you win by being fundamentally sound."

Said Brock, "I don't think we lost our poise – not at all. Some of the guys were making a tackle, and maybe grabbed a face mask by accident. We were just playing football. You can't fault them for that.

"They were just trying to make a play."

As was the case Saturday evening, Colts players and coaches said the play of San Diego punter Mike Scifres had a major impact on the outcome.

Scifres punted six times for an average of 52.7 yards and all six of his punts pinned the Colts inside their 20. Late in the game, his 52-yard punt pinned the Colts at their 1, and when the Colts couldn't produce a first down, San Diego drove 30 yards for the game-tying field goal.

"We had some field-position problems, which they caused," Dungy said. "They punted very, very well. That was tough to overcome."

Said Saturday, "Their punter did significant damage. He deserves 10 game balls. That's the bottom line."

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