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A brief history of the Patriots-Colts rivalry
Football lends itself to great rivalry games. The NFL has a variety of great rivalries. The Packers and Bears have been playing forever. The Raiders and Chiefs have been battling since the AFL days. The NFC East is loaded with bitter rivalries involving all four teams. These rivalries have been around for decades. Fans circle the dates on their calendars and often times these games define the entire season. In the past decade however, another rivalry has taken form. The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts have consistently been near the top of the NFL since 2000. They have met in the regular season every year since 2003 as well as three times in the playoffs. The Patriots have played in four Super Bowls the past ten seasons while the Colts have played in two. Clearly, these are elite NFL teams. They boast the two best quarterbacks in the NFL in Tom Brady(notes) and Peyton Manning(notes). Here is a look back at the history of this great rivalry.
The Patriots and Colts first met in 1970, when the Colts called Baltimore home. They were AFC East rivals and met twice a season from 1971 until 2001. However, neither team was a powerhouse and the rivalry wasn't highly regarded beyond those cities. In 2001, the Patriots became a surprising Super Bowl champion. They dominated Manning and the Colts in two regular season blowouts. In 2002, the NFL split in to eight divisions and the Colts moved to the newly formed AFC South. They didn't meet that season, and New England missed the playoffs.
The Rivalry Escalates
2003 is the year the rivalry really took form. The Patriots won a thrilling 38-34 game in Indianapolis via a goal line stand on their way to a 14-2 record. They would meet again in the AFC Championship Game that season. The Patriots won a hard fought game in icy Foxborough and went on to win the Super Bowl. They opened the 2004 season against each other, and Brady bested Manning again. The Patriots defeated the Colts in the Divisional Playoffs that season on their way to yet another Super Bowl win. The 2005 season, Peyton finally got an edge on the Patriots. The Colts routed New England on the road and finished with the best record in the AFC. Both teams would fall in the Divisional Playoffs. In 2006, the Colts won in New England again. They would meet in the AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis. The Patriots seemed to be on their way again as they built a 21-3 lead. The Colts battled back and wound up taking a 38-34 victory. Manning would go on to win his first Super Bowl that season. The next three seasons saw regular season games played in Indianapolis. In 2007, the Patriots were 8-0 and the Colts were 7-0. New England grabbed the victory in that one.
4th and 2
In 2009, one of the great moments in the rivalry took place. Leading 34-28 in the waning minutes, the Patriots attempted to put the game away by going for it on 4th and 2 deep in their own territory. New England failed to convert, and Manning threw a winning touchdown pass to seal a 35-34 win. The game showed that this rivalry was as intense as ever and left fans waiting anxiously for the next chapter.
The Legacy of the Rivalry
This series has featured many great personalities in the past decade. Tony Dungy coached the Colts through 2008 and was known for his warm and calm demeanor. That contrasted greatly with Bill Belichick of New England, a coach known for being cold and cranky. You have Brady, who is known as a golden boy with Hollywood looks, playing against Manning, who is part of a royal family of football. Skill players like Randy Moss(notes) and Marvin Harrison(notes) have been key players in the rivalry. There have also been superstars on defense as well. These are the two most consistent franchises in the entire NFL. With smart leadership, neither team figures to fade in to oblivion any time soon. It's fair to assume that many more great games lie ahead for the Patriots and Colts rivalry.
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