Why The Team That Disappointed Me The Most Is Still My Favorite Squad

Lee SmallCorrespondent IMay 29, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 15:  Nick Harper #25 of the Inidanapolis Colts tackles Jerome Bettis #36 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Divisional Playoffs January 15, 2006 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Steelers won 21-18. Harper was cut on th knee the night before in a domestic disturbance. His wife Daniell, has been charged with battery with a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness for part in the incident according to the sheriff's office.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

When I think back over my years as a Colts fan, there is only one year that saw the height of joy and the depths of despair.  It would be easy for me to sit here and say the 2006 team that won the Super Bowl was my favorite team, but that would be a lie.

The 2005 Colts, in my opinion, were the most dominant team I had ever seen (remember this was pre-Patriots 16-0 regular season, but we all know how that season ended).  A 13-0 start to the season led to the Colts being the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl.

In the offseason the Colts were unable to work out a contract with Edgerrin James, so they slapped the franchise tag on him.  They were, however, able to work out a seven-year contract with right tackle Ryan Diem.  The contract netted him $12 million in guaranteed money and made him one of the highest paid tackles in the league.

In a sign that the times had changes, Indy's defense played stout and feisty in the first five games of the season, giving up only 29 points.  Some things never change for the Colts, and just like in previous years, Peyton Manning was on, even though the numbers don't back it up.

Peyton was coming off his record-setting 2004 season in which he threw for 49 touchdowns.  Peyton had a little bit of a statistical lull in 2005.  He threw for less than 4,000 yards for the first time since his rookie year and found the end-zone 28 times.

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Even though his numbers might have gone down on paper, his quarterback rating managed to be the highest in his career (and is still to this day). 

He was distributing the ball all over the field, making it that much more difficult to stop the offense.  Reggie Wayne clocked in with 1,055 yards and five TD, and Marvin Harrison had a Marvin-like season with 1,146 and 12 TD.  Brandon Stokley was the perfect third receiver, as he pulled in 543 yards through the air and found the end-zone once.

The running attack was more than solid, also.  In his last season with the Colts, Edgerrin ran for over 1,500 yards while scoring 13 times.  He also came out of the backfield to catch 337 yards worth of passes from No. 18.

Enough about stats, though.  Anyone who watched this team just knew.  They knew week in and week out that they would come out and perform better, faster, stronger, and tougher than the other team.  It was amazing to watch those first 13 games of the season.

2005 was also memorable for tragedy in the Dungy family.  James Dungy, the 18-year-old son of the Colts head coach, took his own life late in the regular season.  For Dungy, a man guided by his faith and deep family roots, this was a devastating blow.

The loss of his son would ultimately take one of the bright coaches in the NFL away from the game to enjoy time with his family following the 2008 season.

If you are a Colts fan and don't get choked up when you think back to Tony Dungy running off the field after the week 17 victory with the ball in the air, then you have no heart...it's as simple as that.

Although those first 13 weeks of the regular season were so much fun to watch, things would get noticeably worse as the season went on.  Two back-to-back loses in the regular season (which I thought would get this team to focus more as they headed into the playoffs) were a bad omen for later.

A divisional loss for the Patriots seemed like an all-but guaranteed ticket to the Super Bowl for the boys in blue.

Rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers had other plans.  Confidence was high as they came into the RCA Dome for their divisional round match-up with the Colts.

A couple of key words sum ou the Colts' 21-18 loss. Nick Harper...stab wound...Mike Vanderjagt...choke...comeback...too little, too late.

Those are the words that I think of when I look back on that dreadful game in 2005.  I also think back to freshman year of college.  I remember running down the hall when the Colts picked up that goal-line fumble and ran it back into Steeler territory.

I also remember thinking, "There is no way he is going to make this kick."  I was right, and boy did it hurt.

For some reason, though, I expected it to happen.  The Colts weren't ready to win the Super Bowl yet.  They would be one year later.

That 2005 team was the most dominant team I had ever seen, but they didn't know how to handle it.  So, when 2006 came around, they knew that 13-0 in the regular season meant nothing.  It all starts in the playoffs.

If there is one thing to learn from the 2005 Colts, it's just to get that.  Just get to the playoffs, because you never know what is going to happen once you are there.

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