The waiting is over for Coach Frank Kush and the Baltimore Colts.
Colts linebacker Johnie Cooks picked up Tony Collins' fumble and returned it 52 yards on the second play of overtime today to give Baltimore its first victory since 1981. The 29-23 triumph over the New England Patriots was also the first for Kush, the Colts' second-year coach.
Nevertheless, Kush remained somber. "It's one of those things I'll better appreciate tomorrow," he said. "But our club showed a lot of poise out there."
Considering it was only the third victory in the last 29 games for the Colts (0-8-1 last season), they've probably forgotten how to celebrate.
The overtime period opened with the Patriots' Steve Grogan throwing a 30-yard completion to Cedric Jones. That put the ball on the Colt 48, giving New Englanders hope that their Patriots might finally win a game in overtime after six unsuccessful tries.
But those hopes were dashed by Cooks after Collins was stripped of the ball by linebacker Vernon Maxwell on the next play. Maxwell came from behind as Collins made a cut and batted the ball on one hop into Cooks' hands and he headed for the end zone.
But when a team has done as badly as the Colts, it does not rejoice too soon. Cooks turned as he crossed the goal line and looked far upfield where he saw a penalty flag.
For a moment, not a player moved. Then an official made his call--holding, Patriots. The game was over.
"I saw the ball scooting toward the sidelines and I picked it up and headed for the end zone," Cooks said. "I've been waiting for this one for a long time."
It was the second key fumble recovery by the young Colt defense, which sacked Steve Grogan seven times and intercepted him at the Baltimore five in the fourth quarter.
"We made mistake after mistake," said Patriots Coach Ron Meyer. "It's hard to put your finger on any one mistake but the missed field goals were crucial and also the fumbles."
New England's John Smith, who entered the game as the NFL's most accurate kicker, missed on field goal attempts of 37 and 33 yards.
"It was a devastating ending," Meyer said, "but we'll rebound next week (at Miami)."
Baltimore sent the game into overtime on Raul Allegre's third field goal, a 33-yarder with no time left in the fourth quarter. The Colts had taken the ball at their own nine-yard line with 1:09 left.
Mike Pagel, who passed for two touchdowns to Bernard Henry, drove the Colts to the tying field goal, completing all four of his passes and scrambling for 22 yards, to set up Allegre's field goal. Allegre, claimed on waivers from Dallas, had earlier made field goals of 25 and 52 yards.
Pagel, who passed a career-high 292 yards, threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Henry in the second quarter and a five-yarder in the third.
In the fourth quarter, linebacker Greg Bracelin intercepted Grogan at the Baltimore five and safety Larry Anderson recovered an errant pitch by Grogan at the Baltimore eight.
Anderson's recovery came with the Patriots facing fourth and goal at the Colts' one and 4:57 left. Grogan pitched to Mark van Eeghen, who was expecting a handoff, and the ball popped loose. Anderson picked it up and charged 92 yards for an apparent Baltimore touchdown, but the officials ruled that the play was a lateral, which cannot be advanced; that gave the Colts the ball at their four.
Kush, infuriated by the call, kicked at his hat on the sidelines. The Colts failed to score on the series.