Win behind 'em, Colts can't help but look ahead

By Jim McCabe
Globe Staff / January 12, 2004

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Given the fact there was commotion everywhere, perhaps Marcus Pollard hadn't heard the question, so for a second time yesterday the tight end for the Indianapolis Colts was asked his thoughts on facing the Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship.

And for a second time, he answered, "Huh?"

So the question was posed a third time, which produced yet another, "Huh?" and suddenly the light went on. Pollard had heard the question the first time; he was just making a point.

He smiled.

"We're not thinking about them," said Pollard, who had three of the 22 completions delivered by Peyton Manning in a 38-31 shootout win over the Kansas City Chiefs in yesterday's AFC divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. "All season, we've been about heart. We're not worried about who's next."

If his teammates were looking ahead to the Patriots, they didn't show it. In fact, running back Edgerrin James made a point of telling reporters that coach Tony Dungy had given his club specific instructions. "Coach said, `Don't even think about the Patriots until Tuesday,' that we should enjoy this win. Let him worry about the Patriots," said James. "So that's what I'll do."

That seemed to be the majority opinion in the winning locker room, but there were a few players who couldn't help but take a peek ahead -- and yes, the fact that they were stuffed on the key play of the game, that memorable goal-line stand preserving the Patriots' 38-34 win, was a vivid memory.

"It was a tough loss, definitely a learning experience," said wide receiver Troy Walters. Guard Rick DeMulling shook his head yes when asked if the Colts felt as if they had some unfinished business with the Patriots.

"They got us in the regular season," said cornerback Walt Harris, who refused to put much stock in the added fact that the Patriots have won four of the last five meetings with the Colts dating back to 2000. "So it's good that we're getting a second chance at them." Dungy said he felt the two best teams had made it to the AFC Championship and no one was about to argue. Player after player offered nothing but the utmost respect to the Patriots. Said center Jeff Saturday: "Their players do their thing, they make things happen. They won't change a thing. They feel comfortable doing what they do."

Even James, who was stuffed by Willie McGinest on the Colts' final play back on Nov. 30, refused to get into any sort of revenge factor, simply nodding in his head in agreement when Brandon Stokley said his club had to simply play better than it had. Better? Having the Colts won these two playoff games by a combined 79-41.

"Well . . . " said James, who then laughed. "We can play better."

And had the Colts taken a look at New England's Saturday night win over the Titans? Had they paid much attention to the fact that temperatures had barely crept over zero?

"The weather doesn't matter," said running back Tom Lopienski. "We're just looking forward to playing."

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