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Frank Reich looks far from a backup plan as coach leads Colts into AFC divisional playoffs

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Football

Frank Reich wasn't their first choice. The Indianapolis Colts didn't even have him on their original list of potential coaching hires. They only turned to him in desperation once Josh McDaniels spurned them after accepting the job.

The new Colts coach was asked about this at his introductory news conference.

Reich had -- what else? -- the perfect comeback.

"The backup role has suited me well in my career," the former quarterback said.

Remarkably, for years, Reich had the distinction of having led his team to the biggest comeback victories in the college and NFL ranks.

Now, after a 1-5 start, his back-from-oblivion Colts are headed into Kansas City with a chance to topple the top-seeded team in the AFC.

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Come again?

"Is it a longshot? Yeah," Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy said. "Is it a no way? Absolutely not."

And Levy should know. He was coach of the Buffalo Bills during the 1992 season when Reich, replacing the injured Jim Kelly, led the greatest comeback in league history. The Bills fell behind by 32 to the Houston Oilers in an AFC wild-card game in Buffalo. But Reich directed a 38-3 run in the second half, guiding his team to a 41-38 victory in overtime.

Eight years earlier at Maryland, Reich similarly came off the bench to beat Miami in an equally unbelievable game at the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes led at halftime, 31-0, before Reich repeatedly directed Terrapin touchdown drives in a 42-9 second half. Maryland won, 42-40, and that Division I comeback record stood until 2006, when Michigan State dug its way out of a 35-point hole to beat Northwestern, 41-38.

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