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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, December 05, 2017 1:00 am

Super Bowl remains elusive for Colts' Gore

MICHAEL MAROT | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Gore came to Indianapolis to earn a Super Bowl ring.

He may leave without making a playoff appearance.

If the Colts didn't know their fate before Sunday's 30-10 loss at Jacksonville, they certainly do now. An already lost season has become their first losing season since 2011.

“It's tough, especially knowing that when I got here, the year before I got here, they went to the AFC championship,” Gore said Monday. “I'm used to winning. But this is football and every year is different.”

Maybe Gore, 34, will find another title contender when he becomes a free agent in March, but he doesn't consider the decision to join Indianapolis a mistake.

Far from it, in fact.

He has enjoyed working with the coaching staff, earned the respect of new teammates and continued to grind out yards at an age when most running backs have been pushed out of the league.

By rushing for 61 yards against the Jags, he moved into fifth on the NFL's career rushing list, 404 yards behind Curtis Martin.

But Gore didn't choose the Colts for individual achievements; he came here to play with Andrew Luck, a quarterback he thought would win and win big.

Instead, Luck has missed half of the past 44 games with injuries and the Colts' expectations have nosedived.

Since coach Chuck Pagano led Indianapolis to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, the Colts have endured back-to-back 8-8 seasons and are 3-9 this season.

The latest loss to the Jags eliminated Indianapolis from the AFC South chase. It's not easy for anyone to accept, especially the players who have been postseason regulars.

“When you're used to winning, you expect to win,” said kicker Adam Vinatieri, one of the few holdovers from the 2-14 debacle of 2011 when Peyton Manning missed the season with a neck injury.

“When it becomes real at the end, when you're not going to the playoffs, that's when it becomes difficult.”

Vinatieri is one of those fortunate guys. He has been part of more Super Bowl victories (four) than losing seasons (three) since entering the league in 1996.

What's next?

A loss at Buffalo would extend the Colts' postseason absence to three straight years for the first time since 1992-94 and add to the growing speculation about Pagano's future in Indianapolis.

Since Jim Irsay succeeded his late father, Robert, as team owner, he has fired three head coaches – Lindy Infante after a 3-13 season in 1997, Jim Mora after a 6-10 mark in 2010 and Jim Caldwell after the 2011 season.