Pressures of going undefeated

Mark Schlereth discusses attempting to go undefeated and the pressure that comes with the pursuit.

Updated: December 14, 2005, 3:50 PM ET
By Mark Schlereth | ESPN Insider
The Indianapolis Colts have entered that rarefied air of the National Football League where dreams, reality and expectations -- both silly and otherwise -- all meld. This is the part of the league that not many teams and players ever get to see. Once teams get to 10-0 and beyond they all of a sudden are not only attempting to make their preseason hopes of winning the Super Bowl come true, but they also are having to hear about the quest for perfection to run the table without a loss.

This is a place where I've been as a player with two different teams, the 1991 Washington Redskins and the 1998 Denver Broncos. Obviously, both teams came up short in our quests for perfection and both ended up 14-2 with the extraordinary consolation prize of winning the Super Bowl. I'm not going to lie and say that I don't look back and wish that one of those teams had run the table. I'm not going to deny that was something that I wish I had done now that I'm retired. But I can honestly say that during the season it wasn't something that any one of my teammates ever mentioned.

Sure, once both teams got to 10-0, we started to hear the questions from the media more and more. At one point it seemed like every question was about going undefeated, but on the practice field and during the game we never brought it up because going undefeated wasn't our goal and we knew that we had to play each week's opponent because we had a bull's-eye on our back. My Broncos team was especially aware of that fact because two seasons prior we'd lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Jacksonville Jaguars despite having a team that we thought was ready for a Super Bowl run. We took that defeat with us into the offseason and into subsequent seasons and always remembered that all the hard work, practice, blood, sweat and tears could be demolished in one game if we let our guard down when it counted.


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Former All-Pro guard Mark Schlereth joined ESPN in 2002 as an analyst for NFL 2Night, now NFL Live. He brings 12 years of NFL playing experience to the role. Schlereth has also filled in on numerous ESPN radio shows.