Thrust into the starting role in September of 2001, quarterback Tom Brady made his first career start against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. A 44-13 win against the then division rival. That was the first of 17 meetings between the two quarterbacks, 11 times in the regular season and five times in the playoffs. However, the 10th meeting between the two is the point of focus in this piece.
The 2007 Patriots came into the RCA Dome in week nine firing on all cylinders, sporting a perfect 8-0 record. Despite not having the magnitude of their ninth meeting, the defending Super Bowl champion Colts also had an unblemished record heading into the showdown with the Patriots. Something had to give as the star-studded teams clashed on a Sunday night.
Billed as the battle of the unbeaten, the Colts had won the previous three matchups. This included the 2006 AFC Championship game victory, en route to a Super Bowl championship. The Patriots came into the game having scored 331 points in the first eight games. The three games leading up to the Colts showdown saw them score no fewer than 48 points. The Patriots 25.5 point average margin of victory highlighted the historic stretch.
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So it was a shock to most when Robert Mathis sacked Brady on the first offensive snap of the game. For the first time all season, the Patriots failed to score points on their opening drive and proceeded to go three-and-out.
The Colts capitalized when an Asante Samuel pass interference penalty set the Colts up goal-to-go. They took a 3-0 lead on a field goal by former Patriot, Adam Vinatieri. However, it looked as though the Patriots would go into halftime with the lead. Randy Moss’ 12th touchdown—tying Stanley Morgan’s single-season franchise record—gave the Patriots a 7-3 lead. It was 7-6 with under two minutes to go when Brady threw one of his eight interceptions on the year.
As a result, Peyton Manning and the Colts turned the turnover into points. A simple dump off to Joseph Addai with 30 seconds left and a few missed tackles turned into a 73-yard touchdown and a 13-7 halftime lead for the Colts.
Officially Brady-Manning Bowl X, the game sparked the short-lived ‘Audiogate’ controversy. After the game, concerns arose over the apparent use of artificial crowd noise piped in during the Patriots offensive plays. It was a sensitive issue, with Spygate still very much fresh in everyone’s memories.
CBS quickly took responsibility for the mishap. They pointed the finger at feedback in the production truck as the unusual noise heard over the broadcast.
“CBS has informed the NFL that the unusual audio moment heard that fans might have heard during the Patriots-Colts telecast was the result of tape feedback in the CBS production truck and was isolated to the CBS broadcast,” a league spokesman said. “The network and the league insisted that it was in no way related to any sound within the stadium and could not be heard in the stadium.”
Not surprisingly, the Colts were pleased with the explanation and issued the following statement:
“We trust this will put an end to the ridiculous and unfounded accusations that the Colts artificially enhanced crowd noise at the RCA Dome in any way.”
Predictably, it did. The controversy was over in a matter of days. The NFL quickly got to the bottom of the situation and diagnose the problem, much to the satisfaction of many. The irony of that needs no explanation. Back to the game.
The Second Half
Trailing coming out of the half, the Patriots pulled to within three on a field goal in the third quarter. They were driving to start the fourth quarter until a second Brady interception gave the ball right back to the Colts with a 13-10 lead.
A few minutes later, Manning dove across the goal-line to give the Colts a 20-10 lead on a quarterback sneak. With less than 10 minutes to go, the Patriots undefeated season was hanging in the balance.
Finally, the Brady-to-Moss connection heated up. With just under nine minutes to go, Brady launched a high arching pass to Moss, who hauled it in with several defenders surrounding him. The 55 yard gain set the Patriots up just a few yards from the end zone. A Wes Welker touchdown brought the Patriots to within three.
“We didn’t have the answer for Randy Moss today,” said Colts’ head coach Tony Dungy via ESPN. “We had a lot of attention paid to him trying to stop him from catching the deep balls but he caught the deep one at the big time of the game. That was really the play of the game, got them a quick score.”
After getting the ball back, Brady lobbed a 28-yard pass to Donte Stallworth down the left sideline, setting them up yards away from the red zone. A halfback screen to Kevin Faulk on the very next play gave the Patriots the lead for good as Faulk fought off multiple defenders and dove into the end zone. Rosevelt Colvin sealed the victory for the Patriots, recovering a Peyton Manning fumble in the final minutes.
“This is the first time we were in a ballgame late,” said Brady after the win. “There wasn’t any loss of confidence or determination.”
It wasn’t that it was the first time they were in the ballgame late. This was the first time they were in a ballgame period. Coming into the game, they put up scores of 48,49, and 52 against Dallas, Miami, and Washington. The Cowboys were also undefeated at the time, sitting at 6-0.
“This was just a football game against the Colts,” said Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick. “That’s all it was.”
Actually, this game became a microcosm for the rest of the season. Aside from a 56-10 clobbering of the Bills coming out of the bye week, each game became increasingly more difficult for the Patriots. They were no longer cruising with 25 point margin victories over the competition. Through the final eight games, starting with the Colts, the Patriots margin of victory average dropped to 13.8. The number inflated by the 46 point win over Buffalo.
As the calendar turned and the temperature dropped, teams began figuring the Patriots out. Little by little, teams learned new ways to take Moss out of the game. At times and a few nearly pulled off the upset.
Next week we will look back at Brady’s career high six touchdown performance against the Miami Dolphins.Look for Part Four of the 2007 Patriots story next Friday.
The post The 2007 Patriots; Part Three: The comeback versus the Colts appeared first on Cover32.