|1981 Baltimore Colts season|
|Head coach||Mike McCormack|
|General manager||Dick Szymanski|
|Home field||Memorial Stadium|
|Division place||T-4th AFC East|
|Playoff finish||did not qualify|
The 1981 Baltimore Colts season was the 29th season for the team in the National Football League (NFL). The Colts finished the NFL's 1981 season with a record of 2 wins and 14 losses, and tied for fourth in the AFC East division with the New England Patriots. However, the Colts finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0). The victories over New England occurred on the first and last games of the season; Baltimore lost 14 games in between victories. They also won the two games by a combined 3 points, winning 29-28 the first time, and 23-21 the second time.
The Colts defense had one of the worst seasons in NFL history, setting records for points (533) and yards (6,793) allowed. (The yardage record was later surpassed by the 2012 New Orleans Saints, who allowed 7,042.) The Colts gave up more than twice as many points as they scored (259). Conversely, the Patriots, with whom they were tied in the AFC East, only gave up 48 more points than they scored. The Colts' pass defense surrendered a staggering 8.19 yards-per-dropback, the most surrendered by any team in NFL history.
The Colts' −274 point differential (points scored vs. points allowed) is the second-worst since the 1970 merger, second only to the 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who finished 0–14. The 1981 Colts and the 1990 New England Patriots are the only NFL teams since 1940 to have 11 losses in a season in which they never had a lead. The Colts allowed 40 points in 4 separate games during the season, still an NFL record today.
The season included a bizarre incident in which, during the Colts' 38-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on November 15, 1981, team owner Bob Irsay called plays from the coaches' booth. Quarterback Bert Jones told Sports Illustrated in 1986: "[Irsay] couldn't have told you how many players there were on the field, never mind what plays we had. All he was trying to do was embarrass the coaches and the players. When he told me to run, I threw. When he told me to throw left, I ran right."
|1981 Baltimore Colts roster|
|1981 Baltimore Colts staff|
Special teams coaches
|1||September 6, 1981||at New England Patriots||W 29–28||1–0||Schaefer Stadium||
|2||September 13, 1981||Buffalo Bills||L 3–35||1–1||Memorial Stadium||
|3||September 20, 1981||at Denver Broncos||L 10–28||1–2||Mile High Stadium||
|4||September 27, 1981||Miami Dolphins||L 28–31||1–3||Memorial Stadium||
|5||October 4, 1981||at Buffalo Bills||L 17–23||1–4||Rich Stadium||
|6||October 11, 1981||Cincinnati Bengals||L 19–41||1–5||Memorial Stadium||
|7||October 18, 1981||San Diego Chargers||L 14–43||1–6||Memorial Stadium||
|8||October 25, 1981||at Cleveland Browns||L 28–42||1–7||Cleveland Stadium||
|9||November 1, 1981||at Miami Dolphins||L 10–27||1–8||Orange Bowl||
|10||November 8, 1981||New York Jets||L 14–41||1–9||Memorial Stadium||
|11||November 15, 1981||at Philadelphia Eagles||L 13–38||1–10||Veterans Stadium||
|12||November 22, 1981||St. Louis Cardinals||L 24–35||1–11||Memorial Stadium||
|13||November 29, 1981||at New York Jets||L 0–25||1–12||Shea Stadium||
|14||December 6, 1981||Dallas Cowboys||L 13–37||1–13||Memorial Stadium||
|15||December 13, 1981||at Washington Redskins||L 14–38||1–14||RFK Stadium||
|16||December 20, 1981||New England Patriots||W 23–21||2–14||Memorial Stadium||
|New York Jets(4)||10||5||1||.656||6–1–1||8–5–1||355||287||W2|
|New England Patriots||2||14||0||.125||0–8||2–10||322||370||L9|