The Indianapolis Colts will face the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship this weekend. That means for the Colts to make it to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to handle the two best quarterbacks of the modern era.
After handling Peyton Manning, and now having a 2-1 record against him, the Colts will need an even better effort to tackle Tom Brady and company. The Colts are 0-3 against the Patriots and haven’t won at Gillette Stadium since 2006.
The Colts have seen marked improvement every season with Andrew Luck at the helm and Chuck Pagano as head coach. They’ve managed to go a step further in the playoffs with every appearance.
For all the complaints about the management and coaching of this team, the Colts have shown marked improvement in just about every category across the board. Regardless of what happens this coming Sunday, this season has to be seen as a resounding success and will only raise the expectations for next year.
In what seems like an odd twist of fate, the Colts are facing the Patriots in the playoffs two years in a row exactly 10 years after Manning faced them in back-to-back seasons.
From 2003 through 2011, the only teams to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl were the Colts, Patriots, and Steelers. The trend was bucked in 2012 but it wasn’t the first time Manning and Brady were defeated in the same playoffs.
In 2011, Mark Sanchez managed to take down both, but it was largely due to the Jet’s talented defense. He played poorly against the Colts in the Wild Card game (Manning’s last in a Colt’s uniform) but managed to pick apart the Patriots the following week.
The Jets would then lose in the AFC Championship game to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
Only Joe Flacco has managed to lead his team past Manning and Brady in the playoffs and make it to the Super Bowl. Flacco’s Ravens team also took down Luck in the wild card round of the playoffs that year.
During that stretch, Flacco put together one of the best postseason performances by a quarterback in recent history. He passed for over 1,100 yards and threw 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions in a four game stretch.
We’ve cited Flacco’s run as reason to believe in the Colts during the postseason. Luck is playing at an extremely high level and is completing over 66-percent of his passes. That includes six drops by his receivers over the past two games, those catches would have brought him up to an incredible 73-percent completion rate.
Defeating both the Manning-led Broncos and Brady led Patriots would be an incredible accomplishment, especially for a player in just his third season in the NFL.
No discredit to the Colts defense, but all hope for a trip to the Super Bowl lies in Luck on Sunday. If he continues to deal at a high level, the Colts will likely be headed to Arizona.