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Futures in question after regular-season finale

1/6/2002

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts gave their fans a
glimpse of the team they could have been this season.

Peyton Manning threw for two touchdowns and Dominic Rhodes ran
for 141 yards while the defense forced four turnovers and allowed a
season-low points total as the Colts closed out a disappointing
season with a 29-10 victory over Denver.

Which of these teams is closer to being a Super Bowl contender again?
The Colts.

Both teams have problems. The Colts have troubles on defense but have a Super Bowl-caliber offense when everybody's healthy. If the Broncos are healthy, with Ed McCaffrey and others back, they would be close. But Denver is an older team, and the offensive line struggled as did the defense.

With Manning, James and Harrison leading the way, the Colts are closer to contending for the Super Bowl next year.

ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.


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"I'm proud of the way our defense played," coach Jim Mora
said. "A little luck is involved in this game, with tipped passes
going into other hands and things like that. Today some of that
went our way."

For Mora, it was an emotional day in what could have been his
final game as the Indianapolis coach.

Last year, Mora became the first Colts coach to win 10 games in
consecutive seasons since Ted Marchibroda in 1976-77, but this
season turned sour fast.

Sunday's victory was only the second in the last nine games for
the Colts (6-10), who finished with their first losing season since
1998 -- Mora's first season in Indianapolis.

It also was the third win at home for the Colts this season.

"Am I emotional? Damn right I am," Mora asked after wiping
tears from his eyes and punching the backdrop behind the podium.
"I apologize. All through the season and at the end of the season,
there's a lot of stuff that goes on that people don't know about."

Colts spokesman Craig Kelley said no news conference has been
scheduled for Monday.

Mora wasn't the only person facing an uncertain future following
Sunday's season finale.

Former league and Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis may have played
his final game in a Broncos uniform after rushing for 82 yards on
18 carries. While he ran more like he did in his prime, Davis'
salary-cap number next season may be too expensive for the Broncos
(8-8).

"I want to be here," Davis said. "Whatever I have to do to
come to terms for being here, I'll do."

The Colts seemed to do everything right Sunday -- for the first
time all season.

Manning completed 16 of 30 passes for 191 yards, and Rhodes
provided the running threat that opened up the passing game,
running for more than 100 yards for the fifth time this season. He
finished the season with 1,104 yards, the first undrafted rookie to
rush for more than 1,000.

But the most impressive aspect for the Colts was their defense.

Indianapolis, next to last in the NFL in total defense, limited
Denver to just 219 yards in total offense, picked off four Brian
Griese passes and sacked Griese five times, playing without
starting middle linebacker Rob Morris, who had a knee injury.

Griese completed just 16 of 32 passes for 151 yards and one
touchdown.

For the Colts, it was a satisfying end to an otherwise bleak
season.

"We played this one to win," said Jeff Burris, who picked off
Griese's second pass and set the tone. "We play all of them to
win. That's the way we are, whatever the game, whether we're
playing chess or cards or whatever, we want to win."

Indianapolis took advantage of two first-quarter turnovers,
interceptions from Burris and Raymond Walls, and a 33-yard punt
return from Trevor Insley that set up three Mike Vanderjagt field
goals.

"He (Griese) had a few bad decisions in there, which obviously
turned into interceptions," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
"When we did make those throws, they were dropped. When you do
that on the road, you get embarrassed like we did."

Denver closed to 9-7 on the first play of the second quarter on
Griese's 1-yard touchdown pass to Desmond Clark.

But the Colts responded with a 20-yard touchdown pass from
Manning to Marvin Harrison and another Vanderjagt field goal to
make it 19-7 at the half.

Denver and Indianapolis traded field goals on their opening
second-half possessions, but the Colts sealed the victory with a
43-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Harrison with 14:54 left in
the game.

"When a lot is expected of a team, and then you don't do so
well, there are opportunities for finger-pointing, for complaining,
for morale to get down and things like that," Mora said. "That's
never happened with this team. I'm proud to be associated with
these guys."

Game notes
Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith caught seven passes for 92
yards, giving him 113 receptions for the season. ... Harrison's two
touchdowns gave him 15 on the season -- a club record. He caught
nine passes for 128 yards. ... Manning went over the 4,000-yard
mark for the third straight season. Manning joins former San Diego
quarterback Dan Fouts and former Miami quarterback Dan Marino as
the only players to achieve that feat.