Colt's coach Dungy abstains

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- All around him, the world seems intoxicated at the prospect of his Indianapolis Colts going unbeaten this NFL season.

But Tony Dungy isn't imbibing. Instead, the Colts coach sounds like a recovering alcoholic.

One day, one game, one goal at a time beginning with today's opponent at the RCA Dome, the Tennessee Titans.

With each passing week and invariably a win for these 11-0 Colts, the din of joining the perfect 1972 Miami Dolphins grows louder.

But each week Dungy patiently lays out his priorities to an audience daring him to say the Colts want it all.

Top-down, the checklist reads like this: Clinch a playoff spot (which could happen today), then the division (which could also happen today), then a first-round bye, then home-field throughout the AFC playoffs. No mention of 16-0, no mention of those '72 Dolphins.

As level-headed a coach as there is in today's NFL, Dungy is keeping his own emotions in check which in turn is feeding its way down to his veteran-heavy roster.

Prior to Monday's 26-7 thrashing of Pittsburgh, Dungy had a chat with Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who pointed out that his team's 15-1 record last year meant little after a loss at home to the Patriots in the AFC Championship.

"It would be an honour, it would be special," Dungy said of going undefeated. "But it's not something you're going to remember if you don't do well in the playoffs."

So first things first. As impressive as the Colts have looked, there are some potholes ahead.

Next week it's off to Jacksonville followed by a home game against the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 18. Then there is a Christmas Eve beauty in Seattle against the Seahawks, top dogs in the NFC.

"Whoever plays well enough to beat them will be recognized for many, many years," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

Just ask the 1998 Denver Brocnos who were 13-0 before being stopped by the 5-8 New York Giants.

Should the Colts win today and as 15-point favourites they certainly are expected to, they will move that much closer to special ground, however.

In the Super Bowl era (since 1970), only three teams have began their seasons 12-0. All three -- the 1972 Dolphins, '85 Chicago Bears and '98 Denver Broncos -- have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy at the end.

So understandably, albeit irrationally, it's getting crazy in Hoosier-land. The big debate is not whether the Colts can win this week or next but whether they should rest quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Edgerrin James and others in the season finale against Arizona.

"Tony as well as myself and (general manager) Bill Polian have a good sense of history," Colts owner Jim Irsay told the Indianapolis Star this week. "But the focus is on ... not (just) going to a Super Bowl, but winning a Super Bowl.


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