On Saturday, January 11th, the Colts will return to Foxborough to face Tom Brady and the Patriots in a playoff game for the first time in nine years. This time, instead of Peyton Manning under center for Indianapolis, there's a new quarterback is slinging the rock. His name is Andrew Luck.
Maybe you've heard of him.
The best NFL rivalry of the 2000s was Patriots v. Colts. Many touted it as Tom Brady v. Super Bowls in four years, he was more of a game manager at quarterback. Brady was essentially the early 2000's version of Alex Smith, but with a better defense and a head coach who knew how to use timeouts., but in actuality it was Manning v. Bill Belichick. When Brady was winning three
It was when the Patriots' defense - which was the cornerstone those Super Bowl teams were built on - began to age that Brady morphed into the MVP-type player he is today. It's also worth noting that the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since that transition took place.
The last time Indy traveled to Forborough for a playoff game was January 16th, 2005. It was the season Peyton Manning broke Dan Marino's single-season touchdown record (48), a record that would fall again in 2007 to Tom Brady (49) only to get broken once again by Manning (55) this past year. On that cold January day in '05, the Patriots defense held a the Colts offense to just 3 total points. The Colts lost two fumbles, Manning threw a late INT, and the Patriots rushed for 210 yards on 39 carries.
It was an ass whoppin'. A brutal beatdown. A shake your head game.
New England would go on to win Super Bowl XXXIX over the Carolina Panthers, who were, at the time, coached by John Fox. Fox now coaches the Denver Broncos, and his quarterback going into the AFC Divisional Round of the 2014 NFL Playoffs this coming Sunday is Peyton Manning.
The only active player currently on the Colts roster who played in that 2005 playoff game is Robert Mathis, who was then in his third NFL season. Oh, Adam Vinatieri played in that game too, only he was the Patriots' kicker at the time.
Meanwhile, Peyton Manning was 28 years old, Tony Dungy was finishing his third season as Colts head coach, and Andrew Luck was barely legal to drive.
The 2005 loss in Foxborough was the Colts third defeat in Gillette Stadium in little more than a year. They'd lost the AFC Championship Game there in January 2004 by a final of 24-14 along with the opening game of the 2004 regular season by a final score of 27-24. In fact, following the Colts' January 2005 divisional round loss, the Patriots had won six games in a row over the Colts since Tom Brady took over at quarterback for Drew Bledsoe following Week 2 of the 2001 season. Brady's first ever NFL start was Week 3 in 2001, and it was against the Colts. The Patriots won that game 44-13.
Indianapolis would finally break the losing streak on November 7th, 2005, blowing out the Patriots in Gillette Stadium, 40-21.
New England has won the last three contests over Indianapolis, including a 59-24 throttling back on Week 11 of 2012. Andrew Luck threw three picks in that game, including one that was returned 59 yards for a touchdown by Aqib Talib.
Unlike last year, this Colts team comes into their match-up with New England on a bit more even footing. Indy is coming off a dramatic comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Colts offense seems to have found itself after struggling mightily in November and early December after star wide receiver Reggie Wayne went down in Week 7 with a knee injury.
The Patriots have been a bit more vulnerable in their home arena during the playoffs in recent years, going 3-3 since 2010. Still, that doesn't mean winning a playoff game in Foxborough will be easy. The last game the Colts won in Foxborough was in 2006, a game that featured Tom Brady throwing 4 INTs, including two to linebacker Cato June.