Vinatieri adding to playoff legacy

BALTIMORE -- This wasn't exactly the climate-controlled RCA Dome, so as the possibility of a 50-yard-plus field goal loomed, Tony Dungy politely asked Adam Vinatieri if he was up to it.

"Got it. We're in good shape," Vinatieri told the Colts' head coach.

The 51-yard kick wasn't his best effort, Vinatieri later conceded, but it came down square on the crossbar -- and bounced over it.

"Thank goodness it was enough," Vinatieri said later.

The second-quarter field goal was, in retrospect, the game-winner in a 15-6 Colts' victory over the Ravens on Saturday.

This, of course, is what the Colts had in mind when they let the NFL's most accurate place-kicker (Mike Vanderjagt) walk away in free agency last year and signed the greatest clutch kicker the game has ever seen. Two of Vinatieri's field goals won Super Bowls for the New England Patriots, and he earned three rings in 10 seasons.

With the Colts' offense strangely in remission and the defense just as oddly effective, the Vinatieri signing looks awfully smart. He has made all eight of his field goal attempts in the playoffs and, along with two extra points, has scored 26 points. The rest of the Colts have a total of 12 -- touchdowns by Joseph Addai and Reggie Wayne.

"Adam's been exceptional all year," Dungy said. "You feel like you're going to make it every time he goes out there. In games like this, it's necessary."

Vinatieri made history on several levels against the Ravens. He kicked the 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd and 34th postseason field goals of his career, breaking Gary Anderson's record of 32. He also tied his own NFL postseason record of five field goals. He hit five three-pointers in the 2003 AFC Championship game against, you guessed it, these same Indianapolis Colts, while a member of the New England Patriots.

But while the longest field goal in that game was from 34 yards out, Vinatieri hit kicks against the Ravens -- in the swirling winds of M&T Bank Stadium -- from 23, 42, 51, 48 and 35. That's an impressive degree of difficulty.

One breathless reporter wondered aloud if Vinatieri could be compared to -- please, no cheering in the press box -- Super Man.

"I don't know if I'd go that far," Vinatieri said, smiling. "You just try not to let all the implications and the extra hype affect you."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.