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'He just missed one'

Vanderjagt's miss costs Colts the road upset

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Posted: Saturday December 30, 2000 6:31 PM

  Mike Vanderjagt Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt looks up after missing a field-goal attempt in overtime. AP

MIAMI (AP) -- Head buried in his hands, Mike Vanderjagt sat on the bench and stared straight into the ground.

He had missed his chance to win it. Now, there was nothing the Indianapolis Colts kicker could do -- and he could not bear to watch the Miami Dolphins march to victory.

Vanderjagt, one of the NFL's most reliable field-goal kickers, was wide right on a 49-yard try in overtime Saturday. He then had to suffer through the crowd's cheers as the Dolphins methodically drove to a 23-17 win in an AFC wild-card game.

"I was born to be in that situation. Those are the situations I live for," he said. "Everyone on that sideline knew I was going to make it.

"I let my teammates down, I let the organization down, I let the city of Indianapolis down. It's disappointing not only because it's the playoffs, but that's the last kick I have to carry for eight months."

But after making field goals from 32, 26 and 50 yards earlier in the afternoon, giving him a streak in which he'd hit 54 of 56 attempts, he never came close on the biggest kick of his career.

Vanderjagt caught a bit of grass and the ball sailed way wide. He turned away, probably as much from amazement as disgust.

"I pride myself on being able to make kicks like that, to win games for this organization," he said. "I went up and down the sideline telling everybody just to get me a chance and they did, and I let them down."

Vanderjagt even lobbied head coach Jim Mora to let him try when the Colts faced a tricky decision.

On third-and-12 from the Miami 42, Peyton Manning completed an 11-yard pass to Marvin Harrison. The Dolphins were offsides on the play, but the Colts declined the penalty and instead sent in Vanderjagt.

"I'm looking at Mike and he's saying, 'I can make it,'" Mora said. "He's had a great year. He just missed one.

"I wouldn't second-guess my decision. Not with Mike's ability to come through in the clutch."

Said Vanderjagt: "Coach Mora asked me and I just said no, that we were fine where we were at. It was a no-problem kick."

Vanderjagt was 23-for-25 on field-goal attempts in the regular season, missing only from 59 and 47 yards. Two weeks ago, he made two field goals at Pro Player Stadium in a 20-13 win against the Dolphins.

He also has a current streak of 113 consecutive extra-point conversions.

"It would have been nice if it wouldn't have had to come down to that and we could have put it away in regulation," Manning said.

Vanderjagt had prided himself on coming through in the playoffs. During his career in the Canadian Football League and the NFL, he was certain he'd never missed a field goal or extra point in postseason play.

The Dolphins seemed surprised by the late turn of events.

"It's crazy how we have a chance to win after they missed a field goal and we caught a break and won," Miami linebacker Zach Thomas said.

Related information
Stories's NFL Wild-Card Games Recap
Smith carries Dolphins past Colts 23-17 in overtime
Colts' Mora misses out again in playoffs
Dolphins' Fiedler a success in first playoff game
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