Scott Kacsmar looks at one of the most bizarre stats in NFL history, and it just so happens to involve the Colts and the postseason.
Since the Colts have practically been eliminated from the playoffs since September, let’s take a look back at the times they were in the postseason.
This week I wrote a San Francisco-centric article about the playoff prospects of teams that had very few turnovers in the regular season, and how that relates to how they did in the playoffs. Several teams from the Peyton Manning-era made the list, including one of the only two teams in the study to win a Super Bowl (2006 Colts, 1990 Giants).
If you view the list I made of the 34 teams with fewer than 20 turnovers sine 2004, you’ll notice the Colts (2005 and 2008) are the only team to lose their playoff game with zero turnovers, and they did it twice.
As I was writing a paragraph about the Colts, I figured it would be worth branching out into another look at one of the most bizarre stats in NFL history, which happens to involve the Colts.
It was just a little over a year ago I passed along the data to Nate Dunlevy at 18to88.com. The numbers have been updated through this weekend’s Wild Card round.
Since 1998, the Colts are 1-5 (.167) in the postseason in games where they had 0 turnovers. The rest of the league is 45-5 (.900).
That fifth loss occurred on Sunday when the Falcons lost to the Giants in a game that featured no turnovers. Someone had to lose. Joining the Falcons are the 2010 Seahawks (lost at Chicago), 2001 Raiders (“Tuck Rule” game), 2006 Eagles (in New Orleans), and the 1999 Titans in the Super Bowl (“one yard short”), who also played in a game without any turnovers. That means only three teams have lost in the playoffs when having no turnovers and getting at least one takeaway.
In the five losses for the Colts, they had the following takeaway totals: 1, 1, 2, 2 and 3.
To make matters worse, in the regular season under Manning (1998-2010), the Colts were 38-2 (.950) when having 0 turnovers. That’s the best record in the league.
The reason for the losses? A lot of the usual reasons a team loses a close game: too many rushing yards allowed, too big of a gap in the rushing margin, blown fourth quarter leads, and a few fourth down conversions that failed, but don’t go down as fumbles or interceptions.
A lot of unusual circumstances that you just don’t see on a normal basis also occurred. Mike Vanderjagt cemented his legacy by missing a game-winning field goal in overtime in
Career performances highlighted the
Speaking of field goals, it was last year’s loss when Adam Vinatieri’s 50-yard field goal gave the Colts a 16-14 lead in the final minute. One big kick return by Antonio Cromartie, one Jim Caldwell timeout leading to a big pass to Braylon Edwards, and it was the Jets kicking a game-winning field goal with no time left, which is just the second playoff game in NFL history where the lead changed twice in the final minute.
The first time that happened involved the Music City Miracle, which brings us full circle, as that victory by
Even the lone win (2003 AFC Divisional at
No matter how heartbreaking a playoff loss can be, especially with the ways the Colts find to do them, this past season should have shown fans one thing.
It’s still better to have that opportunity for some luck in the tournament, than it is to win the Luck sweepstakes.
It's what makes it especially bitter the Pats going to the Superbowl this year. That team is not that good. They've been very fortunate. The Colts have been extremely unfortunate.
The Manning Colts have also been the only team to lose a game in the playoffs in the 2000s without turning the ball over and with winning the total yardage battle. They've done it twice (2005, 2008 - and the yardage differential in 2008 was more sizable before OT).
The Colts have also blown 4th quarter leads in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Only six other teams have blown leads in that timeframe (including 2011) with those being the 2007 Steelers, Cowboys and Patriots, 2008 Eagles and Cardinals and 2009 Chargers. No other team has done it more than once in the past five years. The Colts have done it four times.
The Colts are cursed (in the same way that the Red Sox were). They just happened to also win a SUper Bowl, so no one wants to hear it. I'm pretty sure the Colts have had more heartbreaking losses in the 2000s than any other NFL team.
What also is amazing is how this does relate to the Colts beyond just this current era too. I'm writing about the "Ghost to the Post" game right now, and the Colts had 0 turnovers, 4 takeaways (a pick six), and still lost. They're the only team to have 0 turnovers and be +4 in TO Diff. and lose in the playoffs.
There have only been 3 playoff games where a team had 0 turnovers and 3+ takeaways and lost, and the Colts played two of them (Ghost to the Post and MIA 2000 WC). http://pfref.com/tiny/tZdJr
I feel for Green Bay this year after what happened with their Offensive Coordinator's son.
No one will ever be able to convince me that the Colts don't win in 2005 if Coach Dungy's son doesn't commit suicide. (Everything just changed after that.)
2003 - Manning played like a dog at Foxboro (in his own words :))
2004 - Conservative approach on offense
2005 - Way too much time went by before we started getting our groove as a team
2007 - Red zone running would have helped because Manning was getting yardage in bunches but we stalled in the red zone. Not to mention the lack of a pass rush vs Billy "Freaking" Volek :(
2008 - Manning had 3 possessions with the lead 17-14, the O did nothing with it. Again, conservative playcalling contributed as well. Lot of rushing yards too and Robo Punter lights out
2009 - We go into our conservative shell with a HOF QB before the half of the Saints SB because of field position. Never mind that your HOF QB led 2 minute drives before the half vs both the Ravens & Jets in the previous 2 playoff games. One conservative series led by a "river boat gambler" like Sean Payton onside kick, the game changed then.
Manning has his share of the blame but the Colts teams weren't as good enough as their record a lot of times. In 2009, playing the NFC West, and in 2008 playing the 0-16 Lions, Bungles and Browns, our records were a bit padded, IMO.
Once again proving 18to88's posit that the playoffs are a crapshoot... at least for the manning era Colts.
I remember the first time you mentioned that stat, Scott, and it continues to be mindblowing. Some very bad luck against the Colts, indeed, but I also think it´s one of those hidden facts that highlights how incredibly detrimental the conservative coaching has been in terms of offensive playcalling. Most of those losses are by a TD or less, and one single extra possession in each of these games could have changed the outcome. That´s the kind of stat they should deeply reflect upon.
Wow, those stats are nuts. I always felt the Colts got more conservative with their game plans in the playoffs, which might be a contributing reason for the losses and lack of turnovers. No stats to back that up, just an observation.
I'll never forget that game against San Diego. I've never seen a punter dominate a game like that, and probably never will again. I was so pissed off.
Kinda depressing but great article. The playoffs are all about luck...when teams are this even, and even the worst team will still win 1/3 or more of the time, you can pretty much throw out the idea that "the best team wins"
Wow that is an amazing stat. People think Manning was throwing pick 6's left and right, when in reality, he never turned it over. Such a shame this era is ending.
@dmstorm22 I don´t think it´s a curse. I ´d say the combination of conservative gameplans, undersized defense (which is fine in itself, but can´t coexist with the first factor or it leads to 4th quarter blown leads) and disastrous ST are to blame for most of the playoff losses, with a few outliers thrown in (Peyton´s lone horrendous game, Marvin´s fumble, Garçon´s drop, Vanderjagt´s sabotages), and that indeed adds up to most heartbreaking losses in the NFL in the aughts. Still, given the prevalence of paleolithic attachment to conservative philosophies and the profusion of coaches prone to boneheaded decisions, it´s curious that more teams don´t succumb in the same way as the Colts. Maybe it has to do with the consistent excellence of Indy, and thus an enhanced statistical likelihood of rare circumstances happening?
I know that conservative play calling still makes me sick.
3rd and 1 and peyton gives it to make Hart. crazy!!!
Matt Stover tries a 51 yard field goal. crazier!!!
I meant to say one conservative series by the Colts before the half followed by a "river boat gambler" like move by Sean Payton after the half with the onside kick changed the Saints SB.
@gizzardfanny And without knowing this stat, fans of other football teams just don´t grasp why, sneering thanks to clichés about QB wins and one-and-done, while ignoring the historical nature of the trend.
@Freeneysalwaysheld Nate seems to think it´s a recent development, that goes back to the advent of free agency more or less. That statement intrigues me, because while the link between salary cap and parity during the regular season is obvious, the correlation between salary cap and more randomness during the playoffs is less clear.
^This. I remember talking to a friend at my workplace who stated that while going for all the marbles in a one-game elimination tournament, you cannot say "we will do the same thing we did before" over and over again. You have to be willing to take some risks and make enough tweaks on O and D. Plus, the good teams make you bend and break, the 80 and 90 yard drives led by Brady in Foxboro methodically are proof.
@JoeLoveless Sadly it also perpetrates the myth that Manning is a choker--he can't win the big one. Anyone who actually watched those games knows some of it was bad luck, bad coaching, poor special teams play or awful defense. Yet many keep repeating the myth about Manning.
If you couple this season's collapse without Manning with the team's performance as stated in this article it actually reinforces the idea that Manning is the GOAT. Had a few breaks gone his way or he had a bit more help in key spots he'd have more Super Bowl appearances and surely at least one more ring.
Hank Baskett I'm looking at you...
@Dezznutz1001 thats debatable