Five Alive for Colts, Vinatieri

By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 14, 2007

BALTIMORE, Jan. 13 -- Adam Vinatieri might as well have been moseying along the beach or strolling through the park. The Colts place kicker had just kicked five field goals, becoming the most prolific kicker in NFL postseason history and scoring all of the Indianapolis Colts' points in a 15-6 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

He calmly followed a beaming Peyton Manning into the locker room, the last player to enter, grinning only slightly. He slipped on his red-white-and-blue American flag flip-flops and proceeded to the media room's podium, where he stood, legs crossed, and tried to explain his postseason perfection to a room that wanted to know if he were Superman.

"I don't know if I'd go that far," Vinatieri said, amused at the question. "You know, you try not to let all the implications and all the extra hype and all that stuff get to you. You really just have to go out there and focus in on what you're doing and, you know, hope for the best, I guess."

Then he went back to his locker, began cracking jokes and making faces and altogether rattling his holder, punter Hunter Smith.

"Can you ask the question again?" Smith asked. "I'm sorry, I'm not as good at this as he is."

For years, Vinatieri -- who signed with the Colts as a free agent in the offseason -- has had few peers in the postseason. After Saturday's five-field goal performance, which equaled a postseason record he already shared, Vinatieri has attempted and made more playoff field goals than anyone in NFL history. His foot won two Super Bowls for the New England Patriots, and he had particularly tormented the Colts during his 10 seasons with New England, making all seven of his postseason attempts against them.

"A.V. is a straight-up baller," Colts running back Dominic Rhodes said. "You kind of separate kickers from the team, sometimes some people do. But with a guy like that man, he's clutch. He doesn't miss. I call him automatic. We all love him, man. We hated him back in the day, and we love him now."

Vinatieri was asked if days like this were why he was brought to Indianapolis, and he said he didn't know. Colts President Bill Polian had less trouble with the question.

"Yup," he said immediately. "He does what he does. That's his track record. I don't know what it is, mental toughness, you know, ice water in his veins, whatever phrase you want to use, but he's a pro. And when the chips are down, he does it."

Vinatieri has made 82.5 percent of his career attempts in the regular season (288 for 349), the fourth-best mark all time. Including his 8-for-8 start to this year's playoffs, he's made 81 percent of his postseason attempts, including a 51-yarder on Saturday that skipped off the crossbar and through for the longest postseason field goal of his career.

"These games come down to a few points, they come down to field goals, and it's always good to have a guy like him on your team," Smith said. "I know he's gonna make every kick."

Vinatieri smiled at the accolades, chuckled when told he was a "straight-up baller." He said he felt fortunate to play on a team that can score as many points as the Colts usually do, and said that "every time I step on the field and strap on my helmet it's a joy for me." He never took credit for Saturday's win, but his teammates took care of that.

"He scored all of our points today, look at it like that," Rhodes said. "I ain't gonna say he won the game, but he won the game."

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