The Colts' massive blowout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road on Sunday wasn't exactly the first time it had happened. The Colts lost 51-16 on Sunday, but a decade earlier they lost 44-17 on the road to the Jaguars in mid-December of 2006.
The Colts gave up 375 yards rushing that day and most people left them for dead, but safety Bob Sanders returned for the playoffs, the Colts got hot, and they won four games in a row to win the Super Bowl. The lowlight of that season? A blowout loss to the Jaguars on the road in mid-December.
This year, that game is what Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is pointing Colts fans to. The fact that the Colts lost big to the Jaguars on the road only to go on to win the Super Bowl? He's using that to keep hopes alive that the Colts could still turn their season around and make a Super Bowl run.
"How do you fix it? You keep fighting," Pagano said after the game today. "Go back to work, we'll look at the tape like we always do and clean up what we need to clean up. We have what we have. We still, believe it or not, control your own destiny. I don't know what's going to happen tonight in the ball game but we've got a home game, a tough opponent coming to town and we're going to go back and we're going to go to work. And we're going to continue to practice, meet, fight. We've got three games left, and we can turn this thing. This is the exact same thing [that] happened in 2006 to this football team in this stadium. And those guys found a way to go back and get things fixed and they end up winning the Super Bowl."
Of course, while there are some similarities, there are some key differences as well. That 2006 team had a lot more talent than this year's team has, as the Colts were 10-2 entering that game. This year, the Colts entered the game just 6-6. That was a flat out better team, and the Colts aren't having Bob Sanders walk through the door for the defense. They could have, however, Andrew Luck returning.
On NBC's Football Night in America this evening, Tony Dungy - who was the head coach of the Colts during that 2006 season - said that, "for us, it was getting Bob Sanders back. These Colts have to get Andrew Luck back." That could possibly happen soon, as Luck will hopefully be returning from a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle within a week or two, and Luck will give the Colts their best hope of winning in the postseason. But that doesn't make it likely, as the Colts still have way too many holes to fill. Bob Sanders returning was the one missing piece the 2006 Colts needed. Andrew Luck is the current Colts' franchise player, but for as much as he has carried the team in recent years, he's not the one magic answer that will end all the issues - though he will help, for sure.
Ultimately, it's ok to hope that what happened to the 2006 Colts happens to this year's Colts, because the comparison is there to be made. After all, the 2006 Colts were blown out on the road in Jacksonville and so were the 2015 Colts. For Chuck Pagano, though, he'd better hope that this year doesn't resemble another road loss to the Jaguars more. On January 1, 2012, the Colts lost 19-13. And on that day in Jacksonville, Colts owner Jim Irsay decided that it was time to blow things up. If this year's Colts team doesn't follow the model of the 2006 team after a road loss to the Jaguars, they very well may follow the model of the 2011 team after a road loss in Jacksonville.