Colts vs Patriots: How the Rivalry Has Changed Throughout the Years
This rivalry has consistently made regular season games feel like playoffs games and playoff games feels like Super Bowls.
This Sunday, Andrew Luck and the Colts (6-3) head to Gillette stadium to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (6-3) in what will mark the next chapter in what has become one of the most decorated football rivalries of all time.
Here's a look back at how this rivalry has changed throughout the years.
A Rivalry is Born
When New England’s star quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down after a crushing blow from Mo Lewis in Week 2 of the 2001 season, little known sixth-round draft selection Tom Brady was thrust into the starter role the following week against then AFC East rival, the Indianapolis Colts.
In his first career start, Brady led the Patriots to an impressive 44-13 win over the Peyton Manning-led Colts.
Brady got a lot of help from the Patriots stellar secondary, though, as cornerbacks Ty Law and Otis Smith both returned interceptions for touchdowns.
No one knew it then, but this game marked the beginning of what would become a long lasting and intense rivalry.
The Patriots’ Early Dominance
While the Patriots and Colts were AFC East division rivals from 1970 through 2001, the rivalry really didn’t start to heat up—ironically enough—until after 2001, when the Colts were moved into the newly-formed AFC South division as part of the NFL’s division realignment.
However, barring the 2002 season, the two teams still met every year after that.
In the early goings, the Pats really took it to the Colts, often finding themselves on the winning side of the rivalry.
In 2003, the Pats and Colts found themselves in an offensive shootout. Both teams put up a lot of points. However, the Patriots proud defense put together a historic goal-line stand at the 1-yard line with 14 seconds left, preserving a 38-34 win over the Colts.
The Pats and Colts would meet again that season, but in a much bigger game—the AFC Championship.
The Patriots defended their icy home field and took the “W”, highlighted with Ty Law intercepting the league’s MVP Manning three times and Rodney Harrison grabbing one as well.
The Patriots would go on to win their second Super Bowl in three seasons.
New England’s success against Indianapolis wouldn’t stop there. The Patriots would beat the Colts once again in the 2004 season opener and again that season in the divisional playoff round on their way to yet another Super Bowl title.
Like all good things, however, the Patriots’ dominance over the Colts wouldn’t last forever.
Momentum Swings in the Colts' Direction
In 2005, the Colts finally got an edge over the Patriots with a blowout 40-21 road win.
The Colts continued to oust the Patriots, but this time on their way to a Super Bowl title of their own.
In the 2006 AFC Championship game, the Colts pulled off one of the greatest comeback wins in NFL history. Finding themselves down 21-3, Manning and the Colts, against all odds, rallied back with vengeance to upset the Patriots in a 38-34 win.
After that, the Colts enjoyed a lot of wins over the Patriots, excluding the 2007 season, where no team enjoyed a regular season win over the Patriots.
The Colts would beat the Patriots in 2008 against a Matt Cassel-led Patriots team as Brady was out for the season with a knee injury. While this game didn’t get the same hype without Brady, it probably should have as it was a nail biter all the way to the end.
The Colts won 18-15, thanks to a 52-yard, game-winning field goal from former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri.
The Colts would grab another win over the Patriots in 2009, where Bill Belichick would make one of the most questionable and infamous calls in his career, opting to go for it on 4th-and-2 at his own 28 up by six late in the fourth quarter.
This gutsy move would backfire—the Pats couldn’t connect and Manning, with a short field, scored quickly and sealed the win.
Rivalry Continues With a Little Bit of Luck
The Patriots have the edge over the Colts recently, beating the Colts in 2010 thanks to a James Sanders' interception that stopped what looked like a game-winning drive. The Patriots also defeated the lowly 2-14 Colts team from a season ago. (Does that even count as a win?)
Now with rookie prodigy Luck leading the pack, the Colts look to swing the rivalry back in their favor.
While the Colts may look a bit different without Manning running the show, the results have looked very much the same—the team sits at 6-3 as one of the top teams in the AFC.
Not to mention, this Luck kid is pretty darn good. He's already throwing for 2,631 yards, and he recently broke the NFL record for rookie passing yards in a game—with 433 yards against the Dolphins. The former No. 1 overall draft selection is not playing like a rookie at all.
Though the two teams have changed throughout the years—the Patriots have seen guys like Ty Law and Richard Seymour leave, and the Colts said goodbye to their franchise quarterback—the rivalry never simmered.
The landscape looks different in 2012 and beyond, but there's no reason to think the next decade of this rivalry will be any less exciting than the last decade.
And it starts this Sunday.
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