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 Divisional Round win over the Baltimore Ravens.
In the offseason leading up to the 2006 season, the Indianapolis Colts made a change at kicker.
Mike Vanderjagt, who was an incredibly accurate kicker but one who missed one too many clutch kicks (the worst of which came on his final kick with the Colts), was out. In his place, the Colts signed Adam Vinatieri, who had already established himself as perhaps the most clutch kicker in NFL history. It was his leg that propelled the New England Patriots to a playoff win in a snowstorm, while it was also his leg that won the Patriots two Lombardi trophies. The hope was that by signing Vinatieri the Colts would add a key piece to what they hoped would be their own Super Bowl run.
It turns out that’s exactly what happened.
He was good in the regular season (25/28 on field goals, 38/38 on extra points) and good in the wild card round (3/3 on field goals, 2/2 on extra points), but his biggest impact came in the divisional round of the playoffs. Fresh off of their big win in the wild card game over the Chiefs after a stunning defensive domination, the Colts traveled to Baltimore to face the 13-3 Ravens in the divisional round.
The Colts offense struggled to get things going on the day, managing just 261 yards, turning the football over twice, and converting 8-of-19 third down tries (42.1%). The game would go down as one of the worst playoff performances in Peyton Manning’s tremendous career, as he completed just 15 of 30 passes for 170 yards and two interceptions for a passer rating of 39.6 (though he did hit that perfect pass to Dallas Clark for a conversion in a key situation). But thankfully for the Colts, they had Adam Vinatieri.
The offense managed to move the ball enough to get into scoring position on a consistent basis, though they never were able to get the ball in the end zone. Vinatieri and the defense combined to be enough, however, as the Colts’ kicker hit five field goals - from 43, 43, 51, 48, and 35 yards out - to produce the entirety of Indy’s scoring for the day. His five field goals tied an NFL postseason record for a single-game, while his eight field goals through the team’s first two postseason games would have been the most in a single postseason for Vinatieri in his career (he would finish the 2006 postseason 14 of 15 on field goals).
With Vinatieri providing all the scoring for the Colts, the defense went to work to ensure that it would be enough. Much like they did in the wild card game, the Colts defense dominated the game. They allowed just 244 yards of offense, just 83 yards rushing, forced four turnovers, and allowed the Ravens to convert just 2-of-11 third downs (18.2%). The defense that had been much maligned in the regular season was suddenly the driving force behind Indy’s playoff success. Who could have possibly imagined that the Colts could win a road playoff game with Manning struggling? In fact, in Manning’s 27 playoff games (and 14 playoff victories) only twice did his team win with him posting a passer rating below 70: the divisional game against the Ravens (39.6) and Super Bowl 50 (56.6). Thanks to Indy’s defense and the leg of Adam Vinatieri, it was possible. The Colts came out on top 15-6, with all of the scoring in the game done by the two kickers (the Ravens’ Matt Stover, who would later kick in a Super Bowl for the Colts in 2009, made two kicks on the day).
So far in the postseason, the most incredible thing had happened: the Indianapolis Colts were actually being carried by their defense. But as anyone could have told you, they would need their offense to get going at some point if they hoped to finally hoist that Lombardi Trophy, no matter how good the defense was. And with the Colts advancing to their second AFC Championship game in four years against the New England Patriots - with this one being at the RCA Dome, no less - it would be a nice time for Manning and the offense to finally get going.
Coming tomorrow, we will take a look back at the Colts’ victory in the AFC Championship over the New England Patriots.