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1981 Baltimore Colts season
Head coach Mike McCormack
General manager Dick Szymanski
Owner Robert Irsay
Home field Memorial Stadium
Record 2–14
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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] The Colts allowed 40 points in 4 separate games during the season, which is still an NFL record.

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."[4]



1981 Baltimore Colts staff
Front office

Head coaches

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches

Special teams coaches

  • Special Teams – George Boutselis


1981 Baltimore Colts roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Rookies in italics

Regular season[edit]


Week Date Opponent Result Record Game Site Attendance
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


AFC East
Miami Dolphins(2) 11 4 1 .719 5–2–1 8–3–1 345 275 W4
New York Jets(4) 10 5 1 .656 6–1–1 8–5–1 355 287 W2
Buffalo Bills(5) 10 6 0 .625 6–2 9–3 311 276 L1
Baltimore Colts 2 14 0 .125 2–6 2–10 259 533 W1
New England Patriots 2 14 0 .125 0–8 2–10 322 370 L9

Records set[edit]

  • Most Points Allowed, Season, 533
  • Worst Point Differential, 16-game season, −274
  • Most First-Half Points Allowed, 16-game season, 307[5]
  • Most Touchdowns Allowed, Season, 68
  • Most First Downs Allowed Season, 406
  • Fewest Punt Returns, Season, 12


See also[edit]



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