1:00 PM ET, December 18, 2005
San Diego (8-5) at Indianapolis (13-0) Sunday 1:00 pm EST
INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The Indianapolis Colts are the fourth team in NFL history to get to 13-0. Only one team made it to 14.
But extending the perfect run will not be easy. On Sunday, the Colts will host the San Diego Chargers, who are scrambling for a playoff berth and nearly won here last December.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only unbeaten, untied team in the 86-year history of the NFL. They completed a 14-0 regular season with a 16-0 win over the Colts, who were then based in Baltimore. Miami then won three postseason games for a perfect 17-0 mark.
The 1998 Denver Broncos were 13-0 before they lost to the Giants, 20-16, en route to a 14-2 season. They went on to win the Super Bowl.
Winning the Super Bowl is the goal of Colts coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning. But becoming the second team in league history to have a perfect season would be quite a legacy.
"Finishing 16-0 would be a nice footnote and we're going to try to do it," Dungy said. "But it's not the ultimate goal. We didn't go into training camp thinking of an unbeaten season."
The Colts have a tougher task than Miami because they must win two more regular-season games - 16 instead of 14. After hosting the Chargers, Indianapolis will play at Seattle, which has the best record in the NFC, and close with a home game against Arizona.
Then the postseason begins. The Colts clinched the AFC South title and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a 26-18 win over Jacksonville last week.
The Chargers had won five straight before losing at home, 23-21, to Miami last week. San Diego is tied with Kansas City and Pittsburgh for the second AFC wild-card spot, one game behind Jacksonville. The Chargers visit Kansas City next week and close with a home game against Denver, which leads the AFC West by two games.
Last December 26, the Colts rallied from a 15-point deficit and beat the Chargers in overtime, 34-31.
Manning threw his record-setting 49th touchdown pass of the season - a 21-yarder over the middle to Brandon Stokley - with 56 seconds left in the fourth quarter before Edgerrin James scored the game-tying two-point conversion.
In the overtime, Indianapolis won the coin toss and Manning hit Stokley with a 23-yard pass and connected with Reggie Wayne on a 35-yard play to set up a 30-yard field goal by Mike Vanderjagt. Manning finished 27-of-44 for 383 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
San Diego's Drew Brees completed 21-of-31 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson turned a screen pass by Brees into a 74-yard scoring play and Antonio Gates set a single-season record for tight ends with his 13th touchdown catch.
The trio of Brees, Tomlinson and Gates will need to be productive again if the Chargers hope to become the first team to beat the Colts. Brees has passed for 3,092 yards and 22 touchdowns, Tomlinson has rushed for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns and Gates has 76 receptions for 997 yards this season.
Manning, two-time rushing champion Edgerrin James and wide receiver Marvin Harrison are regarded as the NFL's best offensive trio since quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin led Dallas to three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s. A two-time Most Valuable Player, Manning has passed for 3,290 yards and 27 touchdowns and James is second in the NFL with 1,440 yards this season.
Harrison leads the Colts with 72 catches for 992 yards and Wayne has 71 receptions for 943 yards.
The Chargers rank first in the NFL against the run, but are 27th against the pass. They likely will have major problems with Harrison, Wayne and Stokely after allowing Miami's Chris Chambers to catch eight passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Series: The Chargers lead, 12-9, but the Colts have won the last three meetings.
Next week: San Diego visits Kansas City, December 24 Indianapolis visits Seattle, December 24
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Bolts secondary no match for Manning
Thirteen down, three to go in the Colts' pursuit of a perfect regular season. Next up: a fickle Chargers team that has looked dominant in wins over the Giants and Patriots but soft in losses to the Eagles and, most recently, the Dolphins.
Playing on the fast track inside the RCA Dome does not help the Chargers' chances, but there are a few good reasons to believe they are capable of pulling off the streak-snapping upset of the Colts -- RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TE Antonio Gates and an athletic corps of linebackers being chief among them.
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|Avg Points Allowed||19.2||14.7|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
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|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||SD|
|Rush Yds Allowed||SD|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 1-1|
|Dec 26, 2004||SD 31, @IND 34|