- The Washington Times - Friday, November 25, 2005

Don Shula has been watching Indianapolis with special interest. That’s not because the Hall of Famer used to coach the Colts when they called Baltimore home in the 1960s. Shula is curious to see if the Colts can match his 1972 Miami Dolphins’ perfect season, or if they’ll eventually slip up — just like the 1985 Chicago Bears, 1991 Washington Redskins, 1998 Denver Broncos and his own 1984 Dolphins.

Not only does Shula think the 10-0 Colts can run the table, he’s not rooting against them.

“We’ve been accused of being angry old men hoping and praying that the last team would lose and that’s not true,” Shula said of himself and his players. “If the Colts do it, I’d be the first guy to call [coach Tony] Dungy and congratulate him and I’m sure our players would congratulate their players.”

Shula likes the Colts’ management tandem of general manager Bill Polian and Dungy (18 playoff berths in 26 seasons between them), the improved defense led by pass rushing wizard Dwight Freeney, and the ever-potent offense guided by Peyton Manning, who “is doing things that no other quarterback has done at the line of scrimmage.”

While Shula’s 1972 Dolphins rallied to beat Minnesota 16-14, the New York Jets 28-24 and held off Buffalo 24-23 (the latter two with veteran backup Earl Morrall filling in for injured quarterback Bob Griese), the 2005 Colts have yet to win by less than a touchdown.



Indianapolis already has surpassed Miami in beating three teams that should finish above .500 in Jacksonville, New England and Cincinnati. Miami had only two victims in 14 regular season contests with winning records (Kansas City and the New York Giants, who both went 8-6). And Indianapolis faces Pittsburgh (7-3), the Jaguars (7-3), San Diego (6-4) and Seattle (8-2) in four of its next five games. If the Colts go 16-0, they’ll certainly have earned it.

“The Colts are really capable of doing it,” Shula said. “They’ve still got some tough games to play, but if and when they do it, it’s just going to prove that they’ll be a great team. They’re playing at a level that’s just unbelievable and they’re healthy. They’re so strong, just a complete football team.”

And like Miami, which had been pounded by Dallas in the previous Super Bowl, Indianapolis is looking to erase the memory of playoff eliminations the past three seasons by an average of 23 points.

“Although we were in the Super Bowl, you walk away a loser and that was a feeling that we didn’t want to have again,” said Shula, whose Dolphins were an amazing 50-7 through Week 8 of 1975 after that title game loss.

Eagles laid low — Defensive end Derrick Burgess and guard Jermaine Mayberry left as free agents. Defensive tackle Corey Simon was cut in a salary dispute. Running back Correll Buckhalter, receiver Todd Pinkston, center Hank Fraley, cornerback Lito Sheppard and quarterback Donovan McNabb all suffered season-ending injuries. And star receiver Terrell Owens became a boil that had to be lanced for the well-being of the locker room and the organization.

After posting the NFL’s best record the previous five seasons, defending NFC champion Philadelphia (4-6) is a mess. With Seattle and the Giants left on the schedule, the battered Eagles’ motto should be .500 or bust.

“If I had an opportunity to go back and make that decision to have the surgery or not all over again, I would do the same thing,” McNabb said of playing for weeks with the sports hernia that ended his season. “Being the leader of this team, I want to be out there at all times.”

Not your average captain — Seattle defensive end Bryce Fisher, who’s a half sack off the NFC lead with 71/2, has joined the Washington Air National Guard as a captain.

“Whenever I put on this uniform, I think about all the people I know who put on this uniform and do things more important than what I do,” said the Air Force graduate, whose father was a military police officer. “I’ve got friends that have been back and forth to Baghdad and Afghanistan and those people are the ones I really do my best to honor.”

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