Colts' 1st win is just Super 20-yard Blanchard FG overtakes Pack, 41-38

November 17, 1997|By INDIANAPOLIS STAR

INDIANAPOLIS -- The same nagging question went unanswered during the Indianapolis Colts' 0-10 start this year: Why can't they win?

Yesterday at the RCA Dome, the answer was delivered with scintillating clarity: not enough defending Super Bowl champions on the schedule.

Given little chance of getting their first victory with the Green Bay Packers and approximately 15,000 clamorous Cheeseheads in town, the Colts once again relied on their uncanny knack of playing like champions in the presence of the same.

They spotted the Packers a 14-3 lead midway through the first quarter and trailed 28-27 at the end of a highlight-filled first half, then out-leaned the defending Super Bowl champions at the wire. Cary Blanchard's fourth field goal of the afternoon, a 20-yarder with no time on the clock, gave Indianapolis a 41-38 victory.

Being 1-10 never felt so good.

"We've talked all week about what a great opportunity this was to prove to the world we weren't near as bad as our record," said coach Lindy Infante. "The best way to prove that was to beat the world champions."

Unlikely or not -- the Packers were 12 1/2 -point favorites to nudge their record to 9-2 -- that's precisely what the Colts did. Again.

The victory marked the third consecutive year the Colts have knocked out a reigning Super Bowl champion. And each time it has been Blanchard delivering the exclamation point with his right foot.

"I'm glad Cary made [the game-winner] cause I was so exhausted," quarterback Paul Justin said.

But it was a good tired. Justin, like the rest of the Colts, undoubtedly went to sleep last night comforted by the knowledge that good things happen when mistakes are kept to a minimum and meaningful plays are made on both sides of the ball.

"This is what we can do when we put things together," said free safety Jason Belser.

Offensively, the Colts, who scored on six of nine possessions, reaped the rewards of:

Justin throwing for a career-high 340 yards and one touchdown despite having to deal with the discomfort of a dislocated left middle finger.

Running back Marshall Faulk collecting back-to-back 100-yard games (17 carries, 116 yards) for the first time since his first two games as a pro.

Wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Sean Dawkins combining for 13 catches, 181 yards and one touchdown.

Tight end Ken Dilger finally becoming a factor with six catches for 96 yards. His 28-yard catch-and-run with less than 2 minutes to play gave the Colts a first-and-goal inside the Packers' 1. That enabled Justin to drain the clock with three kneel-downs and Blanchard to complete the job with his 20-yarder.

The offensive line giving Justin ample time to dissect the Packers' secondary and complete 24 of 30 passes. The pass-protection scheme, anchored by left tackle Tony Mandarich, rendered Green Bay defensive end Reggie White a non-factor (two tackles).

"Those guys have taken a lot of criticism this year," Justin said of his offensive line, "but today I had time to do something with the ball. It's a good feeling to know we've got that capability."

The Colts' 467 total yards were their highest output since the final game of the 1987 season and the most allowed by the Packers in a non-overtime, regular-season game since the Colts piled up 496 yards against them in a 37-10 victory at Indianapolis in 1985.

"I could stand here and say it's just another football game, but I'm human," Infante said. "I'd be lying if I said this wasn't especially gratifying."

Pub Date: 11/17/97

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