Sep. 9, 2004: Patriots 27, Colts 24
This game was supposed to be different. The league was cracking down on illegal contact. The Colts’ pushed for the emphasis in the off-season specifically because of what happened in the playoff game just eight months earlier.
The Colts drove all the way to the Patriots’ 6 yard line on their first drive. But missed opportunities would become a theme for the Colts on this night, as Patriot linebacker Tedy Bruschi intercepted Manning to end their scoring bid.
But the Colts’ offense seemed to figure out the Patriots’ defense in the second quarter. With the Patriots up 3-0, the Colts’ offense hit its stride. That’s when it got exciting.
After Mike Vanderjagt tied the game with a 49-yard field goal, the Colts took the lead on a 3-yard run by Dominic Rhodes.
Tom Brady drove his offense 34 yards in 42 seconds, resulting in Adam Vinatieri’s second field goal of the game.
The Patriots took the lead on two third quarter touchdown passes by Tom Brady, but the Colts weren’t finished. An 11 play, 74 yard, 15 minute long drive brought the Colts to within three points.
After a Deion Branch fumbled on a fourth quarter punt return, the Colts drove all the way to the Patriots’ 1 yard line. But the drive ended when Edgerrin James fumbled.
The Colts got the ball back and drove deep into Patriots’ territory again. They would have been deeper, but Willie McGinest knocked them back with a huge sack of Peyton Manning.
As Vanderjagt prepared for his potential game tying 48 yard field goal, he reportedly flashed a “money” sign to the Patriots’ bench. A kicker talking trash (even with hand signals) is funny enough; it became even funnier when he missed the field goal.
The Patriots beat Manning again, but the Colts’ offense left the game more than confident. Had they not turned the ball over deep in Patriots’ territory twice, they would have won the game. They rushed for over 200 yards, and ended the game with almost 500 yards of total offense.
They were confident that, when they two teams met again, they would finally beat Bill Belichick’s Patriots.
Jan. 16, 2005: Patriots 20, Colts 3
The Colts HAD to win this game. They had the league’s best passing attack. Their defense was playing better. They were, by most accounts, the better team this time.
Meanwhile, the Patriots were playing without both of their starting cornerbacks (Ty Law and Ty Poole were both on injured reserve) and their best defensive lineman (Richard Seymour didn’t play).
Yet, with all of this working against the Patriots’ defense, they dominated this game. The Colts didn’t score until they kicked a field goal right before half time.
And they wouldn’t score again.
The Patriots scored the game’s only two touchdowns in the second half. The game clinching touchdown was a 1 yard touchdown run by Tom Brady.
Once again, Peyton Manning had to watch Tom Brady celebrate a playoff victory. But his fortunes would soon change…
Nov. 7, 2005: Colts 40, Patriots 21
The Patriots came into this game decimated by injuries and barely keeping their heads above water in the talented AFC with a 4-3 record. The Colts came into the game undefeated and on a roll.
I remember Tom Jackson saying in the pregame show after picking the Colts to win, “If not now, then when?”
He was right.
The Colts didn’t just beat the Patriots, they destroyed the Patriots. They took out their aggressions on a weaker Patriot team.
Peyton Manning threw for 3 touchdowns, Edgerrin James ran for 104 yards, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne both had 100 yards receiving.
It was the epic beat down of a Bill Belichick defense that Peyton Manning needed to finally silence his critics. He still hadn’t won a Super Bowl, but this game proved to everyone that he COULD win a Super Bowl.
He overcame his personal kryptonite. He crushed his personal kryptonite.
The Patriots, at least temporarily, had unwillingly passed the AFC torch to Peyton Manning and the Colts.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.
Crowe is also the New England Patriots Examiner at Examiner.com. Check it out for all the latest on the New England Patriots.