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The Indianapolis Colts’ bid for an undefeated season came to an end on Sunday. Their playoff fate might already be decided, too.

To be fair, the 21-14 loss in Dallas likely will be just a speed bump on their road to the playoffs. At 9-1, the Colts still boast the best record in the AFC.

But Colts fans should note that every year since 2000, the team that went the longest before losing a game has failed to win a Super Bowl. It’s a statistical quirk that reminds football followers that the regular season means only so much.

Last year, the Colts won their first 13 games but lost in the second round of the playoffs. The year before it was the Philadelphia Eagles, who were 7-0 but lost to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

In 2004, the Kansas City Chiefs won their first nine games but lost in their first playoff game, a 38-31 shootout with Peyton Manning’s Colts.

Indianapolis already has built a reputation of playoff disappointments, with a 3-6 postseason record since Manning joined the team. Last year’s upset at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, sealed by a missed last-second 46-yard field goal miss, added some extra pain to that dubious record.

Sunday’s loss, the team’s first since that 2005 game, was a similar nightmare: The Colts found new ways to make mistakes, and the Cowboys did just enough to take advantage.

Manning had three turnovers in his first nine games. On Sunday, he had a fumble and threw two interceptions, one returned for a TD.

Wide receiver Marvin Harrison’s fumble early in the game was his first in 40 games.

The Colts’ league-worst run defense gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns, and their AFC-best offense was held nearly 50 yards below its average.

Even if the Colts sweep the rest of the regular season, this loss and the one in last year’s playoffs will be fresh in fans’ minds when January arrives.

Back-up planOn Sunday the Eagles lost starting quarterback Donovan McNabb to an injury for the second year in a row, this time with a torn ACL.

McNabb’s injury was the death knell for a team that was then 4-5 and went 2-5 without him.

This year the team is 5-5, and will have to rely on Jeff Garcia for any chance to remain in the playoff race.

But that’s a long shot. Whether teams call on a backup due to injury or incompetence, winning with one isn’t easy.

So far this year backup quarterbacks have posted a 25-30 record in games they’ve started.

On the good end are teams like the Chiefs and Seahawks, who managed to keep winning games despite losing their Pro Bowl quarterbacks to injury.

Chiefs QB Damon Huard went 5-3 before Trent Green returned to the field Sunday, and Seahawks QB Seneca Wallace has managed a 2-2 record to keep his team on top of the NFC West in Matt Hasselbeck’s absence.

Dallas QB Tony Romo has been even more impressive, posting a 3-1 record since Drew Bledsoe was demoted during a Monday night game against the Giants.

But most teams haven’t been that lucky. The Raiders lost QB Aaron Brooks to a shoulder injury in Week 2, and his backup, Andrew Walter, has posted a 2-6 record in his starts and has passed for more than 200 yards only once.

Arizona rookie QB Matt Leinart finally won a start on Sunday, after losing his first five.

Unlike many teams in the league, Garcia is a backup with a Pro Bowl résumé. But like the other backups, there’s a reason he wasn’t starting: The team would rather have their number one guy playing.

Instant replayAFN Sports will carry this year’s three Thanksgiving Day games on Thursday and Friday, giving those overseas a little taste of home for the holiday.

The first game, airing at 5:30 p.m. Central European Time, features the Dolphins traveling to Detroit, and Miami QB Joey Harrington’s first game there since the Lions traded him last summer.

Following that at 9 p.m. CET will be the Buccaneers game in Dallas, and WR Joey Galloway’s first game against the Cowboys since he was traded two years ago.

And the network will carry the Broncos/Chiefs match-up live at 1 a.m. Friday morning. The Broncos, who dominated the AFC early this season, will find themselves in third place in the AFC West if they lose in Kansas City.


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