Vinatieri a clutch weapon for Colts



The former New England kicker hopes to give Patriots the boot out of playoffs.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- This is Adam Vinatieri's favorite time of year.
Each playoff week, the two-time Super Bowl hero seems to reinforce his reputation as the NFL's best clutch kicker. Give Vinatieri an opportunity to win a post-season game, and he's money.
Now, in the AFC title game, Indianapolis' biggest off-season addition might get a chance to boot his former team, New England, right out of the playoffs.
Vinatieri has continually insisted he's not motivated by the rivalry between Indianapolis and New England, or even the chance to show his former team it made a mistake. He's content with making more meaningful kicks than anyone in NFL history.
"You try not to let all the implications and all the extra hype get to you," Vinatieri said after he kicked five field goals in Indianapolis' 15-6 victory over Baltimore Saturday. "You try to go out there and focus in on what you're doing and hope for the best."
During the past decade, nobody's been better than Vinatieri when it matters most, and his resume is filled with testimonials backing up that image.
Broke record
Last weekend he made all five field goal attempts to break the career record for most post-season field goals (34). He's made two last-second kicks in Super Bowls for the Patriots, a 42-yarder to force overtime against Oakland in a blizzard, and a 35-yarder to eventually win that playoff game.
On Sunday, Vinatieri's shoe will be on the other sideline.
Jilted Boston fans have endured this kind of bitter breakup before, usually with maddening results.
When Babe Ruth left the Red Sox for the hated New York Yankees, it haunted them for decades. It was a similar story last year when Johnny Damon joined the Yankees, who made the playoffs while the Red Sox went home.
They're hoping Vinatieri does not add another chapter to that painful legacy Sunday.
But Vinatieri has been comfortable kicking indoors for the Colts (14-4), and his soft-spoken, cautious demeanor seems perfectly suited to pressure situations -- a stark contrast to Indy's former kicker, the brash Mike Vanderjagt.
Found a new home
Still, New England coach Bill Belichick thought he could find a better bargain and a younger foot to provide longer kickoffs in the off-season. So when the Patriots didn't re-sign free agent Vinatieri quickly, he found a new home with one of New England's main rivals.
The split has featured some tension. Patriots fans gave Vinatieri a chilly reception when he returned to Foxborough, Mass., in November, and the reaction from the coach hasn't been much warmer.
Belichick refused to use Vinatieri's name when asked about him, and Vinatieri initially referred to the Patriots as "his former team" when he arrived at Colts training camp. He later changed that philosophy.
Indianapolis couldn't be happier with the results.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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