My initial plan was to write about this specific topic in the Weekly What If in a few weeks. However, every week, at least one of you leaves a comment about this game, this moment. So, I'll give in and write about this a little earlier than I planned on.
What if Aaron Bailey catches the ball?
This season, though, Jim Harbaugh (who began as a back-up to start the year) had a type of magic about him. Multiple times, the Colts came from way behind in the fourth quarter to win games. It was clear that they believed they could win any game.
That would be an important belief against a daunting AFC playoff field. Including the fifth seeded Colts, the AFC featured Dan Marino and the Dolphins, the declining (but still very good) Buffalo Bills, the defending AFC champion Chargers, and the top two seeds: Pittsburgh and Kansas City.
In the first round, the Colts ran right through the Chargers. Zack Crockett tallied 147 yards and two scores in the win.
In the second round, the Colts knocked out the top seed Kansas City Chiefs. The first of many times that the Colts would be the reason for a one-and-done playoff stint for the Chiefs (sorry Chiefs fans).
The Steelers came next. In a back and fourth game, Harbaugh and the Colts had a chance to win the game on a last minute drive.
On the final play of the game, Harbaugh lofted a pass to the end zone. The prayer was nearly caught by second year receiver Aaron Bailey. However, Bailey couldn't quite corral the ball, and it hit the turf. Incomplete.
But what if Bailey catches the ball? Well, first of all, we'll assume that the refs make the correct call on the play, because there was no replay review in 1995. And the Colts are headed to the Super Bowl!!
Waiting for them, however, are the Dallas Cowboys.
This Cowboys team was one looking for its third title in four years, and first under Barry Switzer. They featured Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and Deion Sanders, to name a few.
I know it's a somewhat fun thought that the Colts could have beaten Dallas, as evidenced by their win over the Cowboys next season. I just don't think it happens.
Would it have been a close game? I certainly think so. In fact, probably closer than the actual Super Bowl was, since I don't think Harbaugh would gift Larry Brown two interceptions in the game. It's also possible that the Colts could have had Marshall Faulk back for the game, which would have added another dimension to the offense.
Still, on paper, which is basically all we have to go on, I don't see the Colts going out and beating a veteran Cowboys team that already had two rings. It would have been an exciting day, but I think it ends in disappointment for the Colts.
Plus, they would have been wearing their blue jerseys, and Super Bowls never end well when the Colts wear blue.
Had Bailey (or Quentin Coryatt) caught the ball, I don't think it changes much in the Colts future past that season. I think Ted Marchibroda still departs to coach the new team in Baltimore, and the rest of the 1996 season goes about the same.
Maybe as defending AFC Champions the Colts start out the 1996 season a little better with Lindy Infante, which could have resulted in not playing the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. Instead, of course, that would have meant playing the Bills.
Let's follow that train of thought, and heck let's say the Colts don't get blown out in the first round like they actually did, but instead win. Of course, this means they would have headed to Denver to face none other than John Elway.
It would have been the first (and only) time that Elway would face his former team (kind of) in the playoffs. I don't think the Colts win in Denver.
That would have set up a very fascinating Denver and New England match-up for the AFC Championship Game. It's tough to say who would have won, but it wouldn't matter much. I don't think either team would have beaten Green Bay in the Super Bowl.
So there you have it. If Bailey catches the ball, the Colts are on to the Super Bowl, but I don't think they win it. Still, it would have given Colts fans lots of excitement. Plus the 1996 season may have been fueled a little bit longer because of it.
Oh and let's take a moment to remember those blue pants that the Colts wore in the '95 season as well.