We've already chronicled some of the 'greatest games' from a purely aesthetic standpoint, but now it's time to look at some of the 'most important' wins in franchise history. These games are placed in order of their importance to the Colts in Indianapolis. This list is presented by Blue Blood: Tales of Glory of the Indianapolis Colts.
1. Super Bowl XLI-February 4, 2007
In a pouring rain, the Colts accomplished what so many doubters said they could never do. They won the Lombardi trophy. For obvious reasons, this is the single most important win by the franchise. Even the classic AFC Championship game would have been rendered meaningless had the Colts not pulled through with a win in Super Bowl. The Bears led early thanks to a game-opening kickoff return by Devin Hester. Manning put the boys on the board later in the first quarter with a sensational 53 yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne. Despite yielding another score to the Bears, the defense played well and forced 3 turnovers (including a massive forced fumble by Bob Sanders). The Colts and Bears traded field goals into the fourth quarter when Kelvin Hayden picked off an errant Rex Grossman pass and ran it back for a touchdown, barely keeping his feet in bounds. The Colts punished the Bears on the ground in the second half and walked home with a 29-17 win that was more comfortable than the score indicated.
Heroes: There were almost too many to enumerate. The running backs (Addai and Rhodes) combined for a huge day (190 yards rushing, 74 Receiving, 1 TD). The Zombie had a pick and a forced fumble. Ultimately, this game was about Manning. He dominated the Bears mentally. By throwing a long TD early, he kept the Bears from crowding the line of scrimmage. They later said they were shocked at his ability to stay patient, throw underneath and continually call run plays. Manning scared a physical Bears defense into playing soft. The line and the backs did the rest.
Factoids: Adam Vinatieri was huge in the 07 postseason, but missed a FG at the end of the first half. Later in the game, he would become the all-time postseason scoring leader. Due to a rain storm, my TV reception went out in the middle of Manning's pass to Wayne. I was simultaneously listening to Bob Lamey streaming over the internet. I heard Reggie score well before I ever saw it.
2. Colts 10 Kansas City 7 AFC Playoffs January 7, 1996
After beating the San Diego Chargers soundly in the AFC Wildcard round, the Colts were rewarded with a chilly trip to Arrowhead Stadium and a date with Kansas City Chiefs who owned the NFL's best record @ 13-3. In addition to this the Colts were without Marshall Faulk and Tony Siragusa. Game-time temperature was 11 degrees, with a wind-chill of minus 9. KC scored first on a Steve Bono pass to Lake Dawson, but these would be the last points KC would put on the board. Harbaugh to Tuner tied the game @ 7-7 in the 2nd quarter and Blanchard put the Colts ahead 10-7 in the 3rd. Getting desperate, KC benched Bono in favor of Rich Gannon, but this did nothing to change the outcome of the game. The defense was stout and limited the Chiefs to FG attempts. Speaking of FG attempts, Colts fans had to be swaying in their homes which induced two more additional Lin Elliot FG misses that could have tied the game, and just about everyone probably passed out with euphoria when Elliot's 42-yard attempt missed with 37 seconds left.
Hero: The Colts' defense. They played without "The Goose" and only gave up a TD in the 1st quarter and shut out the Chiefs for the remainder of the game. A special nod should go to KC placekicker Lin Elliot. He missed three field goals during the game.
Factoid: Did you know every time the Colts have faced KC in the playoffs they have made it to the AFC Championship game? This occurred in 1996, 2004 and 2007.
3. The Halloween Massacre- Colts 55 Broncos 23 October 31, 1988
The first MNF game in Indianapolis put the city on the map. The defending AFC Champion Broncos came to town and Dickerson destroyed them. The game was never close, as ED posted four first half touchdowns. This remains to this day one of the largest blowout wins in the history of Monday Night Football, as the Colts jumped to a 55-10 lead.
Hero: Dickerson. Four touchdowns and 159 yard rushing.
Factoid: The Colts printed masks of the MNF crew (Michales, Dierdorf, and Gifford) and passed them out to fans who wore them as ABC cut to the crowd at the start of the game.
4. Colts 30 Jets 17 January 24, 2010
The Jets jumped on the Indy defense early, and built a shocking 17-6 lead. Just before halftime, you could see Manning figure out the complicated Jets defense. Just before the break, he hit several key passes to Austin Collie (including an immaculate 46 yard throw) to cut the Jets lead to 17-13. Manning completely solved the Jets in the second half, throwing two more touchdown passes and leading the Colts back to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.
Hero: Manning had arguably the greatest passing day of his life. Despite going against the #1 pass defense, Manning posted 377 yards and three touchdowns.
Factoid: Reggie Wayne was almost completely shut out of the game, but Garcon and Collie had huge days (151 and 123 yards)
5. Colts 24 Bucs 6 December 27, 1987
The Colts got a glimpse of what they missed out on in the 1987 draft as Vinnie Testaverde came to town. Indy needed a win to clinch their first playoff spot in Indianapolis and got it easy behind the running of Eric Dickerson. Testaverde completed just 8 of 31 passes on the day and Indy rolled to an easy victory.
Hero: Dickerson. He ran for 196 yards and two touchdwons.
Factoid: Dickerson's huge day gave him 1,000 yards on the season for the Colts. That's amazing because he only played nine games with the team.
6. Colts 41 Broncos 10 AFC Playoffs January 4, 2003
For the Denver Broncos, the game-plan was simple: run the football. Only two weeks earlier, they had come to the RCA Dome and dominated with 227 yards rushing, a 3-to-1 time-of-possession advantage, and a 31-17 victory. As one Bronco player put it, they were going to give the Colts "a whole lotta bump-bump." It was going to be easy, they thought. Peyton Manning had other plans.
Stepping on the field that day with a personal playoff record of 0-3, number 18 turned the rodeo into a derby. He quickly led the team on a six-play, 70 yard drive that culminated on a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Stokely. After the Broncos responded with a Jason Elam field goal, Manning scored again, this time with one of the most memorable plays in Indianapolis Colts history. On 3rd-and-8 from the Denver 46, he connected with wide receiver Marvin Harrison at the 30 yard line, converting the first down. But the play wasn't over. As the Bronco defenders argued amongst themselves, Harrison stood up and sprinted to the endzone. He hadn't been touched. The play counted for six and, just like that, the Colts were up 14-3. As the Jake Plummer-led Bronco offense began to sputter (two punts and a David Macklin interception), Manning was just getting warmed up. He threw two more TD passes in the half (Stokely, Harrison), and led the team down the field for a Mike Vanderjagt 3-pointer as time expired. At halftime, the Colts were up 31-3 and the game was essentially over. In the third quarter, Manning threw his fifth TD pass of the night to wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The Broncos failed to mount a comeback, and the Colts cruised to a 41-10 triumph.
It was the first home playoff win in Indianapolis Colts history. It was the first playoff win of Peyton Manning's career. Manning and the Colts proved to the NFL that they were contenders and would not be beaten easily. The city of Indianapolis got a taste of playoff victory that would strengthen the fanbase and contribute to the building of a new stadium right in the heart of downtown.
Hero: Peyton Manning. In the face of tremendous pressure from fans and media alike, the co-NFL-MVP completed 22 of 26 passes for 377 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions. He was so good, in fact, that he didn't have to finish the game. He was relieved in the fourth quarter by Brock Huard.
Factoids: This was the first of two consecutive playoff games in which the Colts never punted. It was also the first of two consecutive playoff games in which Manning had a perfect passer rating. Although he never scored, running back Edgerrin James was a key contributor with over 100 yards from scrimmage. Defensive end Dwight Freeney also had a good day, registering a sack and a forced fumble.
Submitted by Big Dave
7. Colts 10 Patriots 7 December 23, 1995
In order to keep the magical season alive and to clinch a playoff berth Captain Comeback needed one more miracle. Although the Colts lost Marshall Faulk to injury, they mounted a second-half rally to beat the New England Patriots in the Indianapolis on national TV. Falling behind 7-0 at halftime, Harbaugh drove the Colts 65 yards on eight plays for the tying score. Kicker Cary Blanchard kicked a 30-yard field goal with 5:51 remaining and the defense held on to secure a playoff berth.
Hero: Who else, Jim Harbaugh. His 13 yard pass to Floyd Turner tied the game and eventually led the Colts to victory without their top rusher Marshall Faulk (lost to injury).
Factoid: This win ultimately led to the Indianapolis Colts winning their first playoff game against the San Diego Chargers the following week, which in itself was a milestone.
Submitted by Justin Landon
8. Colts 27, Dolphins 24 October 8, 1995
The birth of Captain Comeback and the Cardiac Colts. After the Colts stumbled out of the gate with a 1-2 start, Jim Harbaugh secured the starting QB job (taking over for an ineffective Craig Erickson) and the birth of a magical season began. The Colts, after falling behind, 24-3, rallied and cut the lead to 24-17 midway through the fourth. Harbaugh and Bailey knotted up the score at 24 points with 1:09 left with a 21-yard TD pass and later stunned the Dolphins and their fans with an improbable 27-24 overtime victory.
Hero: Jim Harbaugh, who completed 25 of 33 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns. He became an icon with his catchy nickname and got the Colts their first taste of national attention.
Factoid: Dan Marino broke the NFL record for pass completions on the October 8th against the Colts with 3,686. Then 2 weeks later in Indianapolis, Marino threw his 343rd career TD pass breaking Fran Tarkenton's record. Both ironically occurred in losses to the Colts.
Submitted by Justin Landon
9. Colts 15 Ravens 6 AFC Playoffs January 13, 2007
The beloved Indianapolis Colts traveled to a truly hostile environment to Baltimore, the city from whence they came, to play the #1 defense in the league in a second round divisional playoff game. The question was, could the Indianapolis defense that had shut down Larry Johnson re-emerge, or would the defense that gave up yards like water through a screen rear its ugly head again? The game started with the Colts holding Jamal Lewis to three rushing yards, and the Ravens going three and out. Manning then led the Colts on an 11-play drive that resulted in an Adam Vinatieri field goal of 23-yards. Ravens ball, and on second down Nick Harper put a textbook hit on Todd Heap to force a fumble, recovered by Gary Brackett. This sets up Vinatieri's second field goal of the night, this one from 42-yards. This game was a defensive battle from the beginning, but the #1 defense in the league wasn't up to the challenge. Probably the biggest play of the game came mid-way through the second quarter, with Baltimore on the Colts 5-yard line. On 3rd and 4, Bethea intercepted McNair's pass at the 1-yard line, ending their scoring threat. Manning then led the Colts 65 yards in 6 minutes, capped off by a monster 51-yard field goal by Vinatieri, giving the Colts a 9-3 lead. The game was undecided until the 4th quarter, where midway through the Ravens and Colts traded three and outs, but then the Colts ran a 47-play, 7 minute drive capped off again by a Vinatieri field goal, putting the game virtually out of reach at 15-6. The Ravens last drive ended in fitting fashion, as Mathis sacked McNair, forcing a fumble that he recovered.
Hero: Adam Vinatieri and team defense. AV hits 5 field goals, tying an NFL record for most field goals in a playoff game. He also breaks Gary Anderson's post-season records of FGAs and FGMs in this game. The defense holds the Ravens to 83 rushing yards, 246 total yards, 2-11 on third down, and forced 4 turnovers. Bob Sanders and Rob Morris both had 10 total tackles.
Why its important: Coupled with a San Diego loss, this win lets the Colts host their first ever AFC Championship game in the Dome, en route to their first Super Bowl title in Indianapolis.
Submitted by Josh Brown
The Colts' hopes of extending their streak of postseason appearances to 9 rested on beating the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indy played well all day and dominated the Jags despite a blown fair catch call by the officials that lead to a Jaguars touchdown. Indy extended their lead to 24-10 before allowing the Jags to rally late. After Jacksonville had clawed to within 3 points with , Tyjuan Hagler scooped up an onsides kick and returned it for a touchdown to seal the win less than two minutes to play. The Colts won their final two games of the season to win the AFC South title for the 7th time in 8 years. People often forget these games when talking about the Colts and the playoffs, but it was a must win/playoff game, and Indy took home the victory.
Hero: Don Brown had the best game of his career with 129 yards rushing (including two long runs) and a touchdown (a 43 yard run in the second half)
Factoid: Jack Del Rio got aggressive and went for it on fourth down several times in the game. The Jags were 2/3 on fourth down, but had another key conversion called back.
11. Colts 17 Steelers 16 October 21, 1984
The Steelers came to town in the Colts inaugural season in Indianapolis. They dominated all game, holding a 13-0 late in the fourth quarter. Backup QB Mike Pagel, who had lost the starting job, came in to try and rescue the Colts offense. He moved the team for 10 points, but a Steelers field goal gave them a 16-10 lead with 1:35 to play. Pagel's game winning drive was bizarre. On 3rd and 24 from the indy 46 yard line, Pagel dropped back to pass and was almost sacked. He then heaved the ball downfield where Sam Washington of the Steelers batted it up in the air. It miraculously landed in the arms of Ray Butler who ran it in for a 54 yard touchdown to win the game.
Hero: Pagel. 178 yards passing and one amazing score
Factoid: The Steelers almost came back to win. Steeler Weegie Thompson caught a tipped ball right at the gun and broke free down the sideline, but was tackled at the 13 yard line as time expiered.
12. Colts 31 Vikings 10 December 24, 2000
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the dome
The fans were stirring with the Colts' fate unknown
The Raven hung another L on the Jets with a sound thumping
Keeping the Colts' playoff hopes alive and pumping
Christmas came early for the Colts as Santa delivered a some magic and a Colts win on Christmas Eve. A mere three weeks ago, the playoffs seemed to be no more realistic than Ralphie getting a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. However the Colts got hot and strung together some W's against Buffalo and Miami while the Jets folded like a house of cards losing three in a row and now only needed to beat Minnesota. Not only did the Colts beat Minnesota, they destroyed them in the process winning 31-10. The defense knocked out Culpepper after three series and held the #5 offense at the time to 236 total yards.
Hero: Santa Peyton. Manning tossed at that time a career high 4 TDs and 283 yards and broke Johnny Unitas' 41-year-old club record for touchdown passes in a season.
Factoid: Manning, Edge & Harrison all set records in this game. Manning led the NFL with 33 TD passes, Edge set an NFL record for most # of TDs by a player in his first two seasons and Marvin finished with 102 receptions leading all receivers for the 2000 season
Submitted by Justin Landon