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Kicker's rare miss costs Indianapolis

By JOE FRISARO

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 31, 2000


photo
[AP photo]
After a poor first half, Jay Fiedler guided Miami to the game-tying touchdown in the final minute of regulation and the winning touchdown in overtime.
MIAMI -- A year ago, Indianapolis kicker Mike Vanderjagt beat the Dolphins with a 53-yard field goal on the last play of the game at Pro Player Stadium.

On the same field Saturday, the reliable Vanderjagt missed a 49-yarder that would have given the Colts an overtime victory.

"I pride myself on being able to make kicks like that to win games for this organization," said Vanderjagt, a former Canadian Football League teammate of Bills quarterback Doug Flutie.

Counting his CFL days, Vanderjagt was 15-for-15 in the post-season before the overtime miss. He was 6-for-6 in two NFL playoff games, including Saturday.

Vanderjagt said he lobbied the coaches to decline an offside penalty on third and 12 at the Dolphins 42. The Colts went for the kick after Peyton Manning's pass to Marvin Harrison went to the Miami 31.

"I looked at Mike, and he said, 'I can make it,"' Colts coach Jim Mora said. "He has had a great year, and he missed one today."

Vanderjagt wanted the Colts to push for a field goal in regulation after Miami scored the tying touchdown with 34 seconds left. But the Colts, who took possession at their 20 with 28 seconds left, opted to run out the clock.

"You don't expect to make 49 (yard field goals) much more than 60 percent of the time," Indianapolis president Bill Polian said. "But it was worth a shot."

Vanderjagt's only last-second field goal this season was a 45-yarder at Buffalo, which he made. RUSHING MARKS: Lamar Smith became the first Dolphin to eclipse 100 yards rushing in 21 playoff games, dating to Andra Franklin's 112 yards on 26 carries against the Patriots in 1983.

Before Saturday, Miami had just seven 100-yard rushing games in the post-season. Until Smith's career game Saturday, Larry Csonka held the franchise record with 145 yards against Minnesota in Super Bowl VIII in 1974.

BLACKED OUT: It was a close game, but the only south Florida residents to see it were the ones at the stadium. That's because the game failed to sell out despite extended deadlines.

The last playoff game blacked out was Green Bay at Detroit in 1994. Miami last failed to sell out a playoff game in 1983.

COLT LB WANTS 1 MORE YEAR: Colts linebacker Cornelius Bennett, who has been to and lost five Super Bowls, told Polian he wants to return for a 15th season.

"I still have a desire to play," said Bennett, who is under contract for 2001. "Football is my life right now. This is what I love to do, especially after a game like today."

THE DON: Don Shula, who coached the Colts and Dolphins, was the honorary captain.

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