Indianapolis Colts: Looking Back at 2006, Looking Ahead to 2018
It all started with the aptly named “Manning Bowl”…
The FIRST TIME in thehistory of the NFL that two brothers started at quarterback against each other. Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning squared off against younger brother Eli and his New York Giants to begin what would become a memorable Super Bowl season. The 2006 Colts and Manning also started something that may be duplicated this season.
It was Manning’s ninth year in the league and the Colts, under head coach Tony Dungy, had won three straight AFC South Division titles heading into the new 2006 season. Indianapolis had made the postseason in the first four years of Dungy’s tenure but could only get as far as the AFC Championship game in 2003. The Colts lost to New England 24-14 that year, the same year Manning captured his first NFL MVP award.
After beating the Giants in Week 1, Indianapolis would start the season with nine straight wins. The Manning-led offense would score 30-plus points in four of those wins and average 27.7 per game through the first nine weeks. It was evident that the rest of the league had a difficult time defending the Colts.
As the 2006 season neared its midpoint, the Colts traveled to Denver to face the 5-1 Broncos and a huge test. Denver’s defense had allowed just two touchdowns in its six games and playing at altitude in Denver is never easy. Indianapolis started slowly trailing 14-6 at the half, but Manning would throw three touchdown passes to lead the Colts to 28 second-half points and a 34-31 victory.
The following week, it was off to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots. Once again, Manning would shine throwing for 326 yards and two touchdowns as Indianapolis won 27-20. With the victory, the Colts became just the second team in NFL history to start consecutive seasons 8-0.
Stretch Run Funk
After beating Buffalo win Week 10, the Colts would lose three of four games and expose their greatest weakness – stopping the run. In consecutive losses to division rivals Tennessee and Jacksonville, the Indianapolis run defense gave up 219 and 375 yards, respectively. In a Week 14 loss to the Jags, Fred Taylor ran 76 yards on Jacksonville’s very first play from scrimmage. Maurice Jones-Drewtook a hand-off on the next play and scored on an 18-yard run. Jones-Drew would finish with 166 yards and Taylor with 131.
The Colts would win two of their final three games to finish 12-4, the fourth consecutive season in which they won at least 12 games. With afourth consecutive division title, Indianapolis entered the playoffs as the AFC’s third seed.
Wild Card Round
Indianapolis faced sixth-seeded Kansas City in the Wild Card round of the AFC playoffs in 2006. The Colts run defense, which had its share of troubles during the regular season, held Chiefs RB Larry Johnson to just 32 yards on 13 carries. Indianapolis led 16-0 before Kansas City could muster a scoring drive near the end of the third quarter. The Colts held the Chiefs to just 126 total yards to advance to the Divisional Round.
Once again, the Colts defense showed up in a 15-6 victory over Baltimore. Manning struggled against a very good Ravens defense and completed just 15-of-30 passes for 170 yards. He also threw two interceptions, but the Indianapolis defense held Baltimore to just 83 rushing yards. It was a defensive battle as the game featured seven field goals and no touchdowns. It was on to the AFC championship for the Colts.
AFC Title Game – Rematch
The Chargers, then in San Diego, were the top seed in the AFC but fell victim to Brady and the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round. That set up a rematch between the Colts and Patriots who had faced off in Week 9 of the regular season.
Indianapolis found itself trailing 21-3 in the first half before an Adam Vinatieri field goal made it 21-6 just before the half. Manning would lead the Colts to a touchdown on their first drive of what would be a wild second half. When C Jeff Saturday fell on a Dominic Rhodes fumble in the end zone in the fourth quarter, the Colts were right back in the game at 28-all.
Joseph Addai’s 3-yard touchdown run with just a minute remaining would set the final at 38-34 and earn a trip to the Super Bowl. Three touchdowns in the game were scored by linemen, two on recovered fumbles in the end zone and the other on a 1-yard pass from Manning to defensive lineman Dan Klecko.
Colts Win It All
For the first time in Super Bowl history, the opening kickoff was returned for a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Colts, it was the Bears’ Devin Hester that went 92 yards for the game’s first touchdown. Trailing 14-9 in the second quarter, Indianapolis would outscore Chicago 20-3 the rest of the way. Manning would win the game’s MVP and the franchise earned its second Super Bowl title, the first while in Indianapolis.
The 2006 Colts gave up 360 points during the regular season becoming the first team to give up more than 340 and make the Super Bowl. Where Indianapolis really struggled was against the run. For the season, the Colts gave up an average of 5.33 yards per attempt. To understand the context of that statistic, through the 2006 season only 18 teams had ever given up 5.00 or more yards per carry for an entire season.
It only happens roughly once every four or five years and when you consider that teams run the ball far less than they did even 10 years ago, the feat is quite difficult to match. Most of the 18 teams on the list reached it while playing in the 1950s and ‘60s when running the football was the norm.
Still, it is possible that this rare feat could be matched in 2018. Currently, the Los Angeles Rams – 8-0 through the season’s first eight weeks – are a favorite to win this year’s Super Bowl. Even with a defense loaded with superstars – last year’s NFC Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald leads the NFL with 10 sacks through eight weeks – the Rams give up 4.8 yards per carry. That number is 27th in the league.
If not the Rams, then consider the Kansas City Chiefs. With an explosive offensive led by QB Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs, like the 2006 Colts, are highly efficient on that side of the ball. On the other, the Kansas City defense gives up 5.4 yards per rush, the worst mark in the NFL. Like those 2006 Colts, the Chiefs are hoping they can defend the run when it matters most and that their high-flying offense leads them to a Lombardi Trophy.