In honor of the ten-year anniversary of the Indianapolis Colts winning Super Bowl XLI the team is hosting a reunion this weekend. Leading up to the halftime ceremony on Sunday, Stampede Blue will be taking a look back this week at that incredible 2006 season - continuing today with the Wild Card win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Entering the playoffs in 2006 was a much different feel for the Indianapolis Colts than the year before. Whereas in 2005 they entered the postseason as the clear Super Bowl favorite, in 2006 they entered the postseason almost as an afterthought.
That’s because they had lost four of their last seven games and had a horrendous run defense, one that ranked dead last in the NFL. And it just so happened that the Colts, 12-4 and winners of the AFC South, would be hosting the Kansas City Chiefs, fresh off a 9-7 season, in the Wild Card round.
The Chiefs presented a bad matchup for Indianapolis, as Kansas City boasted one of the best running backs in football and the Colts had the worst run defense in football. Larry Johnson had rushed for 1,789 yards and 17 touchdowns during the regular season, both of which were second only to LaDainian Tomlinson. He led the league in rushing first downs (91) and averaged 4.3 yards per carry while also adding 41 catches for 410 yards and two touchdowns receiving. Total on the year he had accounted for 2,199 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 137.4 yards per game and over a score per game. He had eleven 100 yard rushing games and eleven games with a touchdown that season. The Colts couldn’t possibly find a way to stop Larry Johnson, could they?
It turns out the answer to that question, to the shock of everyone but Tony Dungy, was yes. Bolstered by the return of safety Bob Sanders to the lineup the defense turned dominant. They allowed the Chiefs to score just eight points on the day and allowed just 126 total yards. Most surprising of all, they limited the Chiefs to just 44 yards rushing on 17 carries (2.6 yards per attempt) and limited Johnson to just 32 yards on 13 carries (while he also caught five passes for 29 yards). The Colts forced three turnovers and held the Chiefs to just one-of-eleven on third down. Somehow, the Colts’ defense - worst in the NFL in stopping the run - managed to completely shut down one of the league’s best running backs in the Wild Card round.
Quarterback Peyton Manning was particularly not great, as though he completed 30 of 38 passes (78.9%) he threw for 268 yards and a touchdown against three interceptions. On this day, the story was about the defense - but that doesn’t mean the offense was terrible. They racked up 435 total yards, controlled the ball for 39 minutes, 23 seconds, and converted 50% of their third down attempts (6 for 12). The Colts’ run game carried the way offensively, as they rushed for 188 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries. Joseph Addai (25-122-1) and Dominic Rhodes (13-68-0) once again provided a nice running back duo, while tight end Dallas Clark (9-103-0) led the way in the receiving game.
On this day kicker Adam Vinatieri, the playoff hero for the Patriots who was in his first year with the Colts, also proved to be huge. Vinatieri got the Colts out to a 9-0 lead with three field goals to provide all of the first half scoring (from 48, 19, and 50 yards), and he finished with eleven points total on the day. In the second half, Joseph Addai found the end zone on a six-yard run and Reggie Wayne caught a five-yard pass from Peyton Manning, which bookended the Chiefs’ only score of the day, a six-yard pass from Trent Green to Tony Gonzalez (with the two point pass successful).
Outside of Manning’s three interceptions, it was an incredibly complete game for Indianapolis. They racked up 435 yards of offense and allowed just 126. They rushed for 188 yards and allowed just 44. They controlled the ball for 39:23 as opposed to just 20:37 for the Chiefs. They converted 50% of third downs (6/12) and allowed just 9% of the Chiefs’ third downs to be successful (1/11). And they outscored the Chiefs 23-8 on the day. The Colts got things done with a complete performance that day, surprisingly led by their defense. They would face an even tougher challenge the next week on the road in the Baltimore Ravens, but they at least got the postseason started on a high note and inspired some cautious hope that perhaps the defense would be able to step up once again.
Coming tomorrow, we will take a look back at the Colts’ victory in the divisional round of the playoffs over the Baltimore Ravens.