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Throwback Thursday: AFC Champions

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This Sunday, the Colts return to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 2009. This week's Throwback Thursday looks at the last time the Colts reached this stage of the playoffs.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the Indianapolis Colts played a very familiar playoff opponent this Sunday, the obvious thing to do would have been to highlight the last time the Colts and Patriots met in the AFC Championship Game.

But, since I'm a very superstitious fan, and the last time I did a Throwback to a Patriots game (or five) before the two teams played didn't go so well, so I decided to not bring back that bad ju-ju.

I would be remiss, though, if I didn't throw it back to a different AFC Championship Game.

Since the NFL-AFL merger, the Colts are 3-3 in AFC Championship Games. They are 3-0 at home, and 0-3 on the road.

I'll be throwing it back to the third, and most recent, of those championship games.

We all know the story of 2009. Tony Dungy had stepped down, and Jim Caldwell had taken his place. Marvin Harrison was gone, and Anthony Gonzalez (remember him?) was set to be the number two receiver.

As always, the Colts were supposed to be good, mostly because of Peyton Manning, but nothing more special than usual.

However, by Week 16, the Colts were 14-0, and had wrapped up both the AFC South and home-field advantage through the playoffs. With only games against the on-the-bubble Jets, and the lowly Bills, the NFL's second 16-0 season within 3 years seemed like a certainty.

I have, and most of you probably have done so too, blocked out both Week 16 and 17 from my memory.

When the playoffs rolled around, I was admittedly nervous. Up to this point, Manning and the Colts had gone one-and-done in six of their nine playoff appearances. In 2005 we had seen the best team the Colts had fielded lose the home opener to Pittsburgh. In 2007, we saw a team which (I thought) had a great shot at winning the Super Bowl lose to a Chargers team without the services of both Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson in the fourth quarter.

After watching the sixth seeded Ravens obliterate the Patriots in the Wild Card round, I was a bit worried about another one-and-done for the Colts.

It didn't happen and the Colts thoroughly dispatched of Baltimore, and were to await the winner of the Chargers and Jets game on Sunday. I was certain, and worried, that the Colts would have to play San Diego for a third straight season in the playoffs.

Then, much like in 2006, that didn't happen. The Chargers lost to a team fielding a rookie quarterback, and a rookie head coach: the New York Jets.

The same team that the Colts had a chance to knock out of the playoff race back in Week 16 was coming back to Indianapolis.

The Jets seemed like a surprise team, but really they shouldn't have been. Only a year before they were rolling toward an AFC title (I think) until Brett Favre's bicep blew up, careening the team into a late season skid. But that team had talent.

The game started out as a defensive struggle, with neither team scoring in the first period. On the first play of the second quarter, Matt Stover gave the Colts a 3-0 lead. It wouldn't last.

Literally, on the next play from scrimmage, Mark Sanchez hit Braylon Edwards for 80 yards to put the Jets on top. The Colts would muster another field goal, but Sanchez came back with another touchdown pass. Suddenly the Jets were up 14-6, and would later make it 17-6. It seemed like Rex Ryan's defense had Manning's number.

In a quick two minute drill, Manning found Austin Collie to cut the lead to 17-13 heading into the break.

In the second half, Manning took off and the Colts didn't look back. Manning would find Pierre Garcon and Dallas Clark in the second half, as the Colts scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to put away the Jets.

For the second time in four years, the Colts were headed to the Super Bowl. The 2009 season, to me, seemed different. I expected the Colts to be there, and I expected them to beat the Jets. There was no such expectation coming into the 2006 Championship Game against New England. Essentially, I thought that, with the way the season had gone, anything but a Super Bowl title would be a failure.

I've also blacked that Super Bowl out of my memory.

This Sunday, the Colts return to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since beating the Jets. Typically, it comes against the Colts' biggest playoff hurdle: the Patriots. The worst part about that game will be the fact that we have to wait all day for it to start.