Postseason failures still hound Manning

Associated Press
Published January 12, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS - Peyton Manning can't escape the inevitable playoff questions.

Will his legacy be determined by postseason successes or failures? Why hasn't he already taken the Colts to the Super Bowl? What makes this year different?

The two-time MVP probably has a better chance of outrunning Dwight Freeney than dodging the one topic that makes him squirm each January.

"I'm not into defining a career in the middle of a career," Manning said Wednesday. "I hope to play for a number of more years, and I'm not really one to reflect on my first eight years or what happens in years nine or 10. I'm excited about the opportunity we have."

Starting with Sunday's playoff game against Pittsburgh, Manning will have another chance to answer his critics.

For the first time in Manning's career, the Colts have the AFC's top seed, meaning one of the league's fastest teams will play every playoff game inside a dome. They set a franchise record for wins, exorcising the demons of losing six straight to New England and nine to the Steelers.

They allowed the fewest points in the AFC, and they're facing a Steelers team they steamrolled 26-7 in November.

But the lingering question is: Can Manning win a Super Bowl?

"I think that is probably how he'll be judged in the short run," coach Tony Dungy said. "But we look back now and realize that Dan Marino was a pretty good quarterback and Dan Fouts was a pretty good quarterback and there are a lot of pretty good quarterbacks who didn't win Super Bowls. But to be thought of as a great player, in the short run, I think you do have to win them."

BEST NOT ENOUGH? Ben Roethlisberger made a candid admission for the quarterback of a team that has won 28 of 35 and considers itself to be among the NFL's elite.

Even if his Steelers play as well as possible Sunday, Roethlisberger suggested, they won't win if the Colts play equally well.

"This team is an unbelievable football team," Roethlisberger said of the Colts. "They're as good as it gets in the NFL. It's going to take our A-plus game to go out and beat their B-minus game."

Roethlisberger no doubt was accentuating the theme of the day inside the Steelers locker room.

"I don't think anybody is picking us to win," Roethlisberger said. "We're going to go in and obviously try to find a way to just put a few points on the board and compete."

PORTIS UNMASKED: Redskins running back Clinton Portis threw his admirers a curve, appearing without a costume for his meeting with reporters for the first time in four weeks. He called himself "Hot Stuff" and read a letter that he said was from a female fan who claimed he was the "most beautiful guy" she had ever seen.

"Clinton, I would love to see you come out as yourself," Portis said, reading the letter. "That turns me on more than anything you'll ever know."

"Therefore, I couldn't dress up as anyone," he said. "I had to come out and show my beautiful face."

VOICES OF REASON: Rex Grossman turned on his iPod and instead of rock, jazz or country, all he could hear were the voices of Wade Wilson and Ron Turner.

Grossman decided he need an information overload to get ready for his first career playoff game, so he took a digital recorder into the meeting room with Wilson, his quarterbacks coach, and Turner, the Bears offensive coordinator.

"I just thought it's a good way while I'm going over my notes to listen to the meeting as well, just another added thing to try to get better," Grossman said.

COLTS INJURIES: Right tackle Ryan Diem and defensive tackle Corey Simon returned to practice. Diem sprained a ligament in his left knee Dec. 18, and Simon sprained his left foot Dec. 11. Both are listed as probable.