If you have been paying attention to this year’s NBA Finals, you surely know that the Cavaliers’ LeBron James has been putting up a historic performance. With his team down 3-1 and facing elimination in the series, James has put together two of his best career games back-to-back and has the Cavs back even at 3-3 while forcing a game seven.
James has scored 82 points, grabbed 24 rebounds, and made 18 assists, seven steals, and six blocks against only three turnovers in the past two games. Furthermore, he leads both teams in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals in this year’s Finals through six games. It has been an incredible performance to watch on the game’s biggest stage, and it got us thinking: what’s the best individual championship performance in Colts history?
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re limiting it to the Super Bowl. Although other playoff games are all elimination games too and while there are conference championship games and while there were league titles before the Super Bowl, we’re talking about the biggest game of them all that we know today (if not, the 2006 AFC Championship game would get considerable attention, as would the 1958 NFL Championship game). The Colts have played in four Super Bowls in their history: Super Bowl III (a 16-7 loss to the New York Jets), Super Bowl V (a 16-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys), Super Bowl XLI (a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears), and Super Bowl XLIV (a 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints).
But while they have a fair amount of Super Bowl appearances, they don’t have as many impressive individual performances. In fact, the Colts are the only team in the NFL to have less Super Bowl MVPs than Super Bowl wins, as the only game in which a losing player won the award was when the Colts won Super Bowl V. In other words, the individual performances in that game weren’t great. The same can be said of Super Bowl III. Super Bowl XLIV was a well-played game overall and the Colts honestly didn’t play too poorly, but they still lost. Peyton Manning probably had the best individual performances for the Colts in that game (he completed 31 of 45 passes for 333 yards, a touchdown, and an interception) while Joseph Addai could also receive consideration (he averaged 5.9 yards per carry while rushing for 77 yards and a score, plus he caught seven passes for 58 yards), but is either really the best championship performance?
I would argue that the best championship performance for the Colts came in Super Bowl XLI, their lone title in the Indianapolis era. The Colts outplayed the Bears that day and their defense helped to lead the way, while Manning won the MVP award. But I would argue that the most impressive championship game performance of that game, and really of any Colts Super Bowl, was the play of the running backs in that game.
On a rainy night, Dominic Rhodes led the way by rushing 21 times for 113 yards and a touchdown (5.4 yards per carry) while adding one reception for eight yards (121 total yards). To complement Rhodes, Joseph Addai rushed 19 times for 77 yards (4.1 yards per carry) while catching ten passes for 66 yards (143 total yards). Together, the two running backs 40 times for 190 yards and a touchdown (averaging 4.75 yards per carry) and added eleven receptions for 74 yards, totaling 264 total yards - 17 more than Peyton Manning had through the air. Both players also rose to the occasion, as it was Rhodes’ only 100-yard rushing performance of the season - and his first since his rookie season in 2001.
Dominic Rhodes didn’t dominate the Super Bowl to the same level that LeBron James has dominated the last two games in the NBA Finals, but Rhodes still had a heck of a performance in Super Bowl XLI nonetheless and truly raised his game to a championship level. We could just as easily group Joseph Addai in the discussion here as well to truly represent the best championship performance for the Colts.