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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cinderella Colts Chase AFC Slipper


NEW YORK -- The Cinderella Indianapolis Colts have made it to the American Football Conference Championship Game.

"They aren't supposed to be there. It defies all logic,'' NBC analyst Mike Ditka said Tuesday from his hotel room in snowbound Manhattan. Illogical, but true.

If running back Marshall Faulk is ready to play, he should start against the Steelers to give the Indianapolis offense another weapon.

Logical, but not necessarily true.

Ditka and Joe Gibbs, both former coaches, said they might pass on Faulk, who is listed as day-to-day after arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

"If he's playing at 80-85 percent and Lamont Warren is 100 percent, I'm going to go with Warren,'' Ditka said. "They haven't won it with Faulk, they've won with Jim Harbaugh, defense and by being a good overall team.''

Gibbs agreed Faulk may be an extra rider on this unlikely journey through the playoffs. "The Colts are in a bit of a rhythm now. They have a good secondary that can cover and the offensive line did the job.'' Those same linemen were the ones publicly criticized by Faulk late in the season.

The injury also is a factor, Gibbs said. "I've had many guys who get 'scoped for a couple of chips, and they're better off with a week off.''

The Colts, meanwhile, are on a magical roll. Can they beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh? "They won in Arrowhead, where the Chiefs won eight straight,'' Ditka said. Said Gibbs: "They're dangerous. There comes a point, and I've had it with some of my teams, where they think, `We can't lose.'''

Ditka believes the Steelers "will spread out the Indianapolis defense. They're going to have to run the ball a little better. They found something late against Buffalo with Bam Morris. They'll find out right away how physical the Steelers can be.''

Bill Tobin, the Colts' vice president of football operations, said: "We have played 18 games, including preseason games, and we haven't had a bad game where we were out-coached, outclassed, out-hit, out-talented in any of them."

Said Lindy Infante, the Colts' offensive coordinator, "I think anybody in their right mind, if they were to go back six months and say, `OK, guys let me throw this scenario at you: You're going to lose [receiver] Flipper Anderson, you're going to have Jim Harbaugh be the top-rated quarterback in the league, Marshall Faulk and [starting fullback] Roosevelt Potts won't play because of knee injuries, you will lose your left guard [Randy Dixon] and you got to go to Kansas City, what are you going to do?''

Lose, of course, but then nothing has gone as one might think this season for the Colts.

"I'm sure the perception is still out there that we don't belong here,'' said coach Ted Marchibroda, who has one picture on his office wall -- that of the pope. "That's fine with us. The important thing isn't the perception. We're here.

"All year long our club has fought with everything it had,'' Marchibroda said. "We have been involved in 10 games that were decided by three points or less. I think the character of this team is such that we will hang in any fight.

"So why not us? That's what I told the team at the end of the season. There are no clear-cut favorites, no dominating team. So why not us?'' ()