For a little over the past decade, the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots were one of the best rivalries in not just the NFL, but in all of sports. The two franchises combined to win four Super Bowls and play in seven AFC Championship Games since 2001.
Really, people think this rivalry kicked off when Peyton Manning was drafted with the top pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, but the two teams have been playing each other nearly every year since 1970. The two teams were both a part of the old AFC East from 1970-2001 before the NFL realigned divisions for the 2002 season. The Patriots stayed in the AFC East while the Colts moved to the newly formed AFC South.
The two teams have met 75 times with New England leading the season series 46-29. The Patriots also hold a 7-2 edge in playoff games.
The rivalry didn’t really start taking off until 2003. Tom Brady didn’t even play a game against the Colts until September 2001, when the Patriots knocked the Colts off 44-13 in Foxboro. They also went on to beat the Colts a month later 38-17 in Indianapolis. In 2002, neither team met in the season which, to this day, is the only year that the Patriots and Colts never met.
In 2003, the teams met in the old RCA Dome on Nov. 30 in a thriller when the Patriots won 38-34. That’s the famous game when Patriot defenders faked injuries to slow Manning and the Colts’ offense down. That game is the one that put this rivalry on the map as fans leaving the Dome that day weren’t too thrilled with how New England played.
The teams met in the playoffs that year in New England and the Patriots dominated the Colts 24-14. Now, Colts fans were angry because New England won the last four meetings and the Colts haven’t beat them so far in the 2000s.
The two teams met the very next year in the NFL kick-off game with the Patriots as the defending Super Bowl champions. The game came down to a missed Mike Vanderjagt field goal as New England once again won 27-24. Both teams would go on to have dominating seasons and meet again in Foxboro in the playoffs. The Patriots won the very cold snowy game 20-3 and went on to win yet another Super Bowl. This made Colts fans hate New England as Manning was clearly the better all around quarterback with better stats and leading his team to a better regular season, but they couldn’t beat New England. Brady was now 6-0 vs. Manning and the Colts.
The tables finally shifted in the 2005 regular season, when the Colts went to Foxboro and whooped the Patriots 40-21 on national TV. This was not only the Colts’ first win against the Patriots, but they did it in dominating fashion.
In 2006, the Colts once again beat New England 27-20 in Foxboro in the regular season, then got their chance to play their nemesis, who knocked them out of the playoffs two of the last three years at home. It was the first time since 2003 the Colts played New England at home and it happened to be in the AFC Championship Game with a shot at the Super Bowl on the line. To this day, that’s still the best game in my mind in NFL history as the Colts staged a great comeback to knock the evil Patriots off. The Colts would go on the win the Super Bowl that season and finally put a cap on their frustrating rivalry with New England.
That game was the last time the two would meet in the playoffs as the Colts would go on to win two of the next three regular season match-ups with all three coming down to the end in dramatic fashion. After Brady won the first six games, the Colts took five of the next six from ‘05-’09.
In 2010, the game once again came down to the wire and the Patriots pulled off a 31-28 win in Foxboro. We didn’t know it then, but that was the last time we’d see Manning vs. Brady in Colts vs. Patriots match-up. In 2011, Manning was out for the season and the Colts lost 31-24 in New England after almost pulling off yet another win in comeback fashion. The game, though, didn’t have the same Colts vs. Patriots feel. The hatred wasn’t what it used to be. The Colts were winless and had no hope. It wasn’t fun like it used to be. Plus, it wasn’t primetime TV like most of their other games were. It had no hype around it.
This year, the two teams meet again, but it’s under a different set of circumstances. It’s not the old Colts regime with Manning and the finesse vs. the Patriots and their smash mouth ways trying to outsmart the Colts. It’s a whole new front office, coaching staff, and many new players for the Colts vs. the aging Patriots. It’s now Andrew Luck vs. Brady. It’s a rookie vs. a veteran. What made Manning vs. Brady good was both were around the same age and came into the league within a year of each other. This isn’t the same anymore.
Now, the debate for Colts fans is who’s going to be the next hated rival? New England is a year or two away from being in the Colts’ situation now. Many of their players are aging and Brady doesn’t have much time left. How long is their coaching staff going to stay around? They may usher into the Ryan Mallett era soon rather than later and Mallet vs. Luck doesn’t really have the same feel.
I think a few teams that could replace the Patriots as the hated nemesis are the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens. Both teams are very good and young and could be contenders for quite some time.
The Texans have built to beat the Colts since their existence and have finally reached the mountain top. They’re going to be the Colts’ main threat for a division title for many years to come as the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans are both terrible football teams with not much to build around.
The Ravens, like the Texans, are built the same way and share a hatred already with the Colts. The Colts had the Ravens’ number for so many years in the 2000s and that stung Baltimore fans because the Colts used to be Baltimore’s franchise until that snow day in 1984.
It may not even be those two. I’m curious to who fans think it’s going to be. I just hope it’s the same kind of hatred and passion as the Patriots vs. Colts games were. That was by far the best games to go to. It’s sad to see that era end, but it’s time to move on to a new rival.