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Throwback Thursday: Western Division Champions

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Calling the Colts, especially a team based in Baltimore, "Western" champions seems to have an odd ring to it. Still in 1958, the Colts played in the Western Division, and in 1958 captured the franchise's first division title. This week, Ben Lamers takes a look back at the game that clinched it for the Colts.

George Rose/Getty Images

The Colts bye week is always kind of a downer for me, both as a fan and a writer.

Obviously, the fan portion is obvious. The Colts don't play, and the other slate of games isn't always appealing (although this week there are some intriguing games). For writing a Throwback Thursday article, it can be a little tricky as well, since normally nothing too notable happens during the Bye (this year being a disappointing exception).

The middle of November, in general, is also something of a down month in Colts history (at least according to the team's website). However, there was one notable moment in team history that popped up in November, and while it's a little ways down the road, I'll bring it up now.

This also gives me a chance to throwback to the team's Baltimore days, which I probably don't do as often as I think I should.

Anyway, without further ado, we'll toss it back to the Colts 1958 season. Specifically, their clash with the San Francisco 49ers on November 30.

The Colts came into the game at 8-1, just barely ahead of the division rival Los Angeles Rams. In fact, the Colts had just dismantled the Rams in Baltimore the week before, winning 34-7.

The 49ers entered the game at 4-5, and well out of the race for the Western Division title. They were, however, coming off of a victory over the Packers in Green Bay.

This game would turn out to be a Colts-type game that, in recent years, we have come to see plenty of from both the Peyton Manning years and now the Andrew Luck years.

The 49ers got things started with a Y.A. Tittle touchdown run from a yard out. But the Colts would answer as Johnny Unitas would score his own rushing touchdown later in the first frame to knot the score up at 7-7.

Then the 49ers took off in the second quarter. Things got started when Tittle scored his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon. A missed point after followed, leaving the 49ers with a 13-7 advantage. But they weren't done in the period. The 49ers would score on another goal line run, this time from running back Hugh McElhenny bumping their lead to 20-7. The visitors capped off the second quarter flurry when Matt Hazeltine brought back a Unitas interception, giving the 49ers a 27-7 lead at the half.

It had been a dominant first half performance by the 49ers, and the Colts had their backs against the wall.

In the third quarter, the Colts got a bit closer when Alan Ameche scored from a yard out to cut the lead to 27-14. That was all the scoring in the third, though, and it seemed like it would be curtains for the Baltimore team soon.

Then the fourth quarter happened. Ameche took another touchdown in from a yard out to inch the Colts within a touchdown. Later in the fourth, Lenny Moore completed the Colts comeback when he scampered 73 yards to put the Colts ahead 28-27. Unitas would put the icing on the cake when he would find Raymond Berry for the only passing touchdown (from either team) on the afternoon.

The comeback by the Colts was aided by the fact that they were +3 in the turnover department, benefiting from five Tittle interceptions.

The win clinched the Western Division title for the Colts. The first time in the team's history that it was crowned division champions.

The next week, with the division and a chance to play in the NFL Title Game already wrapped up, the Colts journeyed across the country to face the LA Rams for the second time in three weeks. The Colts would come away with a 30-28 loss, only their second defeat of the season.

In the final game of the season, the Colts stayed on the West Coast to again face the 49ers. Again, the 49ers built a large lead (21-6) by the fourth quarter. This time, the Colts were unable to comeback, and suffered another defeat, bringing their final record to 9-3.

Still, the team had won the Western Division for the first time in history. The team earned a chance to play in the NFL Championship game where they would face the New York Giants, a team that had beaten them earlier in the season.

You could say that Championship Game was a bit memorable.

Now days, we are quite a spoiled fan base as the Colts are in the hunt for the division, playoffs, and Super Bowl nearly every season. But the game against the 49ers in 1958 was when the tradition of winning the division started. A tradition that continues to this day (other than that period between the early 1970s and late 1990s...minor details).

Note: The picture is not from the 1958 game. In fact, it isn't even close. That would be Bill Brooks and the Indianapolis Colts featured in the picture. I couldn't hunt down any good Baltimore Colts pictures, and this was a nice shot, and against the 49ers so it makes sense...kind of.