ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It's only fitting that the Indianapolis Colts stumbled, bumbled and slipped their way out of the playoffs for the third straight season while dealing with a questionable coaching decision by Chuck Pagano in one of the snowiest games in franchise history.
Adverse playing conditions where the playing field went from being clear two hours before kickoff to completely covered in snow by game time made the Colts a one-dimensional team for most of the game in their 13-7 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The Colts haven't been a playoff contender for three months. All Sunday's loss did was officially eliminate them from possibly making the postseason. The current three-year drought is the longest by the Colts since 1988 to '94.
Pagano will likely spend most of the plane ride back to Indianapolis second-guessing himself for his playcalling.
The Colts were in a position to leave Buffalo with a victory after safety Matthias Farley intercepted Bills quarterback Joe Webb with 71 seconds left in the game. But instead of being aggressive to put ageless kicker Adam Vinatieri in a better position, the Colts ran one play for 3 yards and then let the clock run down before it died at Buffalo's 25-yard line.
"I screwed it up," Pagano said. "That's on me. To get over there, unprotected, get on the right hash and we didn't accomplish it."
Pagano's thinking appeared to be that Vinatieri would be kicking from the same spot that he had just made a 43-yard extra point moments earlier in an area that was still relatively clear. But getting closer would have only helped Vinatieri on the snow-covered field where footing was poor. Vinatieri's kick was wide left with only a second left in regulation.
The Colts would have been better suited had they had the ball on the right hash marker because there was more than two inches less snow on the ground in that area, according to the players.
"The footing for sure [was the toughest]," Vinatieri said. "Trying to run through snow and get good plant, that's crazy. If it was just snow and no wind, it's one thing. But you get both of them. It was a tough game."
The Colts thought they were going to win the game in regulation when they finally got on the board on a Jacoby Brissett 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Doyle with 76 seconds left in the game. The touchdown capped a 19-play, 77-yard drive that lasted 9 minutes, 53 seconds.
The Colts converted the two-point conversion on another pass to Doyle, but receiver Kamar Aiken was called for a questionable offensive pass interference. Aiken, like everybody else inside the Colts organization, was upset by the penalty because the flag came in late and it was nearly impossible for the officials to see if Aiken had blocked past the one yard he was allowed to since the ground was covered in snow.
"If I had to do it again, I'd probably do it nine times out of 10," Aiken said.
The Colts were forced to clear a spot for Vinatieri, who kicked in the infamous tuck game with the New England Patriots in 2001, as nine players used their feet to help move the snow. Members of the Colts' staff tried to run on the field to help, but the officials told them they had to get off the field.
The extra work paid off because Vinatieri's 43-yard extra point knuckled its way barely over the crossbar.
The snow started coming down heavy and sticking with less than an hour before kickoff. Workers consistently tried to keep the field as clear as possible during any breaks in the game. The two teams tried to play a game of field position after Vinatieri missed what would normally be an easy 33-yard field goal.
The Colts later passed up a field goal opportunity when they decided to punt from Buffalo's 31-yard line. Sanchez perfectly poked the ball, and it landed at the Bills' 1-yard line.
"You go out there and do your pregame warm-up stuff and you figure out your distances and what the wind is doing," Vinatieri said. "From pregame warm-up until we start the game you get an inch and a half of snow and you're like, 'Now what do we have to do?' It was a continual change in conditions."
The weather conditions made the Colts' passing game nonexistent. They ran the ball on their first 17 offensive snaps, with running back Frank Gore getting 15 of those carries. The Colts became the first team in the league not to attempt a pass in the first quarter this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Gore rushed for 130 yards on a career-high 36 careers. Brissett was 11-of-22 for 69 yards and a touchdown.
"It was tough," Gore said. "Your mind changes and you get ready to go, like, 'Let's go try to make some plays.' It's when you're on the sideline, when you're not really doing anything, that's when it really gets you. It was tough, but as a team, we kept fighting and things didn't go our way again."