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Perfect season for Vanderjagt, title for Colts

12/28/2003

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts couldn't back into the AFC
South title, so Mike Vanderjagt kicked them in.

Vanderjagt hit his NFL-record 41st consecutive field goal, a
43-yarder as time expired Sunday, leading Indianapolis to a 20-17
victory over the Houston Texans to clinch the AFC South.

"The uprights look pretty big right now," Vanderjagt said. "I
told myself, `If you hit it half-decent, it's going to go in more
likely than not.' Doubt creeps in, but when you are hitting it this
well, you kind of realize as long as you keep doing what you've
been doing, it's going to go in."

The Colts host Denver in the first round of the playoffs next
weekend. The Broncos, even without star running back Clinton
Portis, won impressively at Indianapolis last weekend.

The Colts (12-4) were in trouble down the stretch, trailing
17-10 when Vanderjagt quick-kicked on a fake field goal try,
pinning the Texans at their 4-yard line. Three plays later, David
Carr threw a tipped ball right to Indianapolis safety Donald
Strickland.

Peyton Manning converted on the next play, a 5-yard strike to a
leaping Brandon Stokley with 3:55 remaining.

The Texans' offense faltered, but a holding penalty on a punt
return forced the Colts to start the final drive from the 10.
Indianapolis drove right back, buoyed by a big third-down catch by
Marvin Harrison, to set up Vanderjagt's winner.

The Colts needed a win to secure their first division title
since 1999 because Tennessee beat Tampa Bay on Sunday. Running back
Edgerrin James, who ran for 171 yards and a touchdown on 27
carries, said the Colts kept their poise even when they trailed by
two touchdowns in the third quarter.

"We could have had people cursing each other on the sidelines.
That never happened," James said. "The defense gave us a chance,
and what better opportunity could Vanderjagt have? We've been
saying he's the best kicker in he league, even though this was his
first Pro Bowl (election)."

Vanderjagt, whose streak began last year, finished the season
37-of-37. He eclipsed Gary Anderson's record of 40 straight field
goals set from 1997-98 with San Francisco and Minnesota.

He had the game-winning, record-breaking ball tucked in his
locker after the game, but he's not ready to memorialize it quite
yet.

"I'm going to keep it until next season, when 42 comes,"
Vanderjagt said. "Then I'll throw it away."

Manning overcame a slow start to go 26-of-38 for 220 yards with
one interception and the touchdown to Stokley, who had nine catches
for 67 yards.

Houston (5-11) finished its second season with a four-game skid,
but was optimistic after taking AFC South powers Tennessee and
Indianapolis down to the wire in the final two games. The Texans'
last seven home games were decided by less than a touchdown.

"We've had our share of close games," Texans coach Dom Capers
said. "It's a step-by-step process. You wish you could snap your
fingers, but it's not that way."

Texans rookie Domanick Davis ran for 99 yards and two
touchdowns. Davis, a fourth-round draft choice, finished with 1,031
yards despite not winning the starting job until the sixth week and
being inactive for two games.

Houston's other rookie star, third overall pick Andre Johnson,
had five catches for 51 yards. He finished with 976 on the season,
meaning he and Davis fell short of becoming the first rookie
teammates to have 1,000 yards receiving and rushing.

The Texans led 10-3 at halftime because of Davis' first score.
He found a hole and broke through four attempted tackles for an
11-yard run.

The teams otherwise traded field goals, including a 36-yarder by
the Texans' Kris Brown set up by a 41-yard interception return by
Marcus Coleman. The Texans almost had a touchdown moments earlier,
but the officials reversed an 18-yard scoring play when replay
clearly showed Johnson had just one foot inbounds.

Davis capped Houston's opening drive of the third quarter with a
13-yard TD run through traffic. The Colts perked up later in the
period and Edgerrin James made it 17-10 when he ran virtually
untouched for a 6-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth
quarter.
^Notes:@ Mike Vanderjagt's 37 field goals also set the Colts' record
for most in a season. Cary Blanchard made 36 in 1996. ... Marvin
Harrison failed to extend his own record of consecutive 100-catch
seasons to five. He had two catches and finished with 94 receptions
for 1,272 yards. ... Texans cornerback Marcus Coleman set a career
high with his seventh interception.