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Denver seeks its revenge for '04



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Indianapolis routed the Broncos 41-10 in last year's postseason.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Tony Dungy walked off the practice field and acknowledged the challenge.

It's not just the playoff atmosphere that has tested his Indianapolis Colts, but also finding a fresh perspective on a tough task -- getting ready for Denver, again.

"I think I'm probably like the players, it seems like we've been preparing for Denver forever," Dungy said. "Hopefully, we continue to progress. Hopefully, we're sharp."

For the second straight week, the Colts have been preparing for a Denver Broncos team they already know relatively well. Sunday's contest will be the fourth meeting between the teams since December 2003. The Broncos made it into the playoffs by beating the Colts 33-14 last Sunday.

Denver not only has to atone for last year's 41-10 first-round playoff loss at Indianapolis, but also has to back up some strident talk this week.

Hard-hitting words

Players and coaches talked this week about getting physical against a "soft" group of Indianapolis receivers. That, they believe, will help them hold the Colts' high-scoring offense in check.

"You've got to hit a team like that," Broncos Pro Bowl safety John Lynch said after Sunday's victory. "They're so skilled, so fast, you've got to do something to slow them down."

Peyton Manning picked apart the Broncos defense in last year's playoffs for 377 yards and five touchdowns -- three of them longer than 30 yards, one on a play where four Broncos defenders watched Marvin Harrison go down, get up and race to the end zone. The befuddled Broncos also turned the ball over three times, and by halftime the Colts had a 31-3 lead.

Two weeks earlier, Denver had dominated Indianapolis in a 31-17 win at the RCA Dome.

The Broncos (10-6) have something else to prove. Most figured they were a playoff team when the season began, but Denver struggled from late October through early December, losing four of six. By winning three of their last four, the Broncos managed to sneak in with the No. 6 seed.

"We've got a second chance," said Denver quarterback Jake Plummer. "What happened the last 17 weeks doesn't matter now."

Mistakes are not allowed

The Colts (12-4) understand it's a new season, too, and the record-setting regular seasons by Manning and his receivers will mean little unless they continue to play well.

Dungy is looking for the precision that led Indianapolis to four straight late-season wins by a combined score of 182-57. Now they must also demonstrate they can rebound from their first loss since Oct. 31.

"We've got to go out, not make any mistakes and play well," tight end Marcus Pollard said. "We've got to go out and have fun."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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