Colts: Most Bizarre Playoff Stat in NFL History

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 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 Miami, and would miss a game-tying field goal against the Steelers in the 2005 AFC Divisional. Also in those games you had Nick Harper being tackled by Ben Roethlisberger after the Jerome Bettis fumble, and a career performance by Lamar Smith in Miami

Career performances highlighted the San Diego loss in the 2008 Wild Card, as Mike Scifres had the best night ever for a punter, giving the Colts the worst starting field position in the playoffs in over 15 years. Then Darren Sproles had 328 all-purpose yards, including the game-winning touchdown run in overtime. The Colts lost 23-17 in the extra session, without the offense ever taking the field. It was the same 23-17 overtime score they lost by in Miami, which happened after the missed field goal by Vanderjagt. 

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 Tennessee set them up for a game with the 1999 Colts, who were making their playoff debut under Jim Mora. The Colts made just about every mistake (but no turnovers) and had every big play go against them in the game, and the Titans pulled out a 19-16 win. 

Even the lone win (2003 AFC Divisional at Kansas City) was unusual, as neither team punted, setting a playoff record. 

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.