For the third straight season, the Baltimore Colts won the AFC East title only to lose in the first around of the playoffs.
This time the defending Super Bowl champion Oakland Raiders did the Colts in 37-31 in 15:43 of overtime Saturday in Baltimore.
"When you get into the playoffs, somebody has to go home and we're going home again," said running back Lydell Mitchell. "It just shows what type of character the Raiders have. We're not in their class yet, I guess." Following the bitter loss, Colt coach Ted Marchibroda, was in a philosophical mood.
"I think sometimes the things your want most are the hardest to obtain," he said. "Maybe when we finally get there, we'll appreciate it that much more."
After losing AFC semifinal playoffs to Pittsburgh two years running, the Colts thought they could handle Oakland, the AFC's wild-card team. But Errol Mann's 22-yard field goal with time tied the game and ken Stabler's 10-yard pass to Dave Casper won it 4 seconds into the second sudden-death period, which picked up when the first overtime left off.
"They made the big play", said Marchibroda. "Casper made the big catch (three touchdowns, plus a 42-yarder setting of the tying field goal). I think that was more of it than anything we did.
"I tried but we couldn't do it," said quarterback Bert Jones. "The thing that drivers me crazy is that I had Raymond Chester wide open in overtime and I overthrew him."
Oakland's experience helped Saturday, as did its class and cocky attitude. The Colts, meanwhile, appeared to play in the later stages like an old woman clutching onto her purse.
Before the game, Oakland coach John Madden said his team had the advantage because it was the defending Super Bowl champion. The Raiders knew what it was like to go through the whole thing.
"Until you've done it, you don't really know what it's like," Madden said "Our guys know and they want it again."
The statistics that tell the story are the ones for the final 23:37. At that point the Colts had just taken a 31.28 lead. From then on, Baltimore ran 22 plays and gained 28 yards.
Down the stretch, Jones completed only one of three passes, for five yards. Jones was forced to scramble five times trying to pass and Batlimore punted five times. The Colts never got beyond their own 46-yard line. They were never a serious threat to anyone bu themselves.
Oakland, in that span, ran 40 plays for 151 yards, Ken Stabler completed nie for 18 passes the Raiders kicked the game-tying field goal, missed a field goal in overtime and finally won on Stabler's 10 yard pass to Casper.
Raider guard Gene Upshaw said, "We aren't gettint to excited about this victory now because a couple of years ago I remeber Pittsburgh came into our place and beat us and got out of town before we knew what happened.
"We want to win it all and we plan. We're peaking toward the Super Bowl. Then we'll get excited."