Its that time of year! The Indianapolis Colts host the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football once again. The renewal of a rivalry faded a bit as a certain quarterback moved out west, heats up with the ever-increasing talents of the NFL’s next elite quarterback.
The past two seasons, the Colts have been roughed up by the Patriots. They haven’t had the sort of team that can take down a perennial Super Bowl contender.
But this season feels different. The Colts have a very reliable, high powered offense featuring a less turnover-prone Andrew Luck. The defense, well, its still a work in progress.
But we’ll get into the game later this week. Today we look back at a rivalry that really started 11 years ago.
The pure, unadulterated hatred for the Patriots didn’t truly begin until the 2003 playoffs, but the seeds were planted on November 30th at the RCA Dome. A game where Willie McGinest would fake an injury to slow down the Colts offense and return a few plays later to make the game winning tackle.
Its Not a Rivalry Until Both Teams Win – Nov. 7th 2005
It took the Colts five games to finally notch a win against the Patriots. They lost four times in two seasons to the eventual Super Bowl champions, but that fifth game was about as one-sided as a game gets.
The Colts rolled to a 40-21 win at New England.
The Colts dominated the game from start to finish. Manning threw three touchdowns, Edgerrin James had over 100 yards rushing, and Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne torched the Pats’ secondary for over 100 each and all of Peyton’s TD tosses.
It wasn’t just that the Colts won, but that they smacked the Pats in the mouth on their home field. It signaled a flip in rivalry that led to the Colts coming out on top for the next few meetings.
This might have been the best Colts team of the 2000s. It certainly had a great defense, and the offense ranked in the top three in the NFL.
4th and 2 – Nov. 15th 2009
So afraid of what Manning was doing to his defense, Bill Belichick elected to go for the first down on fourth-and-two from their own 28 yard line. The gamble didn’t pay off, and Manning threw a touchdown to Reggie Wayne that gave the then-cardiac Colts a 35-34 win.
Manning led the Colts to 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and had two touchdown drives on the previous three possessions that took all of 3:53 off the clock. While the the safe play would have been to punt, a first down ends the game. Had the play been successful, the pundits would have praised Belichick for his genius.
Melvin Bullitt, filling in for the oft-injured Bob Sanders, made the game saving tackle. He would tell me after the season that he had a partially torn AC joint when he made that hit, but it didn’t hurt one bit following that play.
The win kept the Colts perfect on the season, something that wouldn’t change until Week 15.
The Comeback – Jan. 21st 2007
There can be no doubt that the greatest game in recent Colts history was the 2007 AFC Championship game. There have been so many great games played by the Colts, but nothing compares to beating your tormentor in the playoffs in dramatic fashion.
Bob Lamey’s iconic radio call of the final play was perfect. If you don’t get excited hearing that call, you either didn’t follow the Colts during the early 2000s or weren’t a fan yet.
“Intercepted! Marlin Jackson! Marlin’s got it, we’re going to the Super Bowl!”
The fact that the Super Bowl was two weeks later seemed like a formality. There was no doubt that the Colts would take home the Lombardi Trophy after this win.
The Colts rallied from a 21-6 halftime deficit in a game that featured touchdowns by three different offensive linemen. The game was completely unpredictable and the Colts mounted the biggest rally in AFC Championship game history.
The booming cheers from the RCA Dome as Jackson picked off Tom Brady could be heard across the downtown area. That moment was quickly followed by the entire city spilling out into the streets to celebrate.
If there is a greater moment in the Indianapolis Colts history, I can’t think of one.
If you have a favorite moment, please share it on twitter or in the comments!