When the Indianapolis Colts defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game on January 21, 2007, it felt like they had just accomplished their ultimate goal.
They had mounted the largest comeback in championship game history to defeat their biggest rival in thrilling fashion, with a game-winning score with a minute left and then a game-clinching interception of Tom Brady by Marlin Jackson. For those who remember that game, whether fans, analysts, or players, it remains the pinnacle of the team’s accomplishment.
“It was a lot of emotion because it was like, ‘All right, we’re in the Super Bowl,” former Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, who’s preparing for another Super Bowl with the Falcons, told CBS4’s Mike Chappell this week. “We finally beat the Patriots. Thank God. We felt unstoppable at that point. Once we beat them, we didn’t care who we faced. We got the Bears. We didn’t care. We said, ‘Good luck trying to stop us.’ We finally got that gorilla off our back.”
Not many times - if ever - does the Super Bowl championship truly feel like just the epilogue to the incredible story instead of the climax, but for the Colts it was just that. Still, however, they needed to take care of business in the biggest game of them all, and they did just that ten years ago today.
On February 4, 2007, the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17 on a rainy night in Miami, finally hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the first - and currently the only - time in the Indianapolis era. They were finally on top of the football world.
The game didn’t start off all that great, however, as Devin Hester took the opening kickoff back 92 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a very early 7-0 lead.
I did stand up for the kickoff because I wanted to see those camera flash bulbs,” quarterback Peyton Manning once recalled of the opening kickoff in an interview with NFL Network. “I’d always seen that, I wanted to be a part of that and watch that. So I’m kind of watching that, I don’t even see the ball land in Hester’s hands, and you so you kind of watch just to see where, 20, 30 yard line, 40, 50, oh no... He’s gone.”
The Colts’ horrific start was compounded by the fact that on their first offensive possession Peyton Manning was picked off on a throw intended for Marvin Harrison. Things couldn’t have started much worse for Indianapolis, but they soon got it together. The defense forced a three-and-out, and on the following drive Manning hit a wide open Reggie Wayne for a 53-yard touchdown. With a defender’s arm wrapped around his waist, Manning just heaved the ball deep for Wayne, who had gotten wide open. As he reached the end zone, he pumped his fist in celebration, but it was short-lived as the Colts missed the extra point. 7-6 Bears.
The Bears responded with a touchdown of their own to extend their lead to 14-6, but from there it was all Colts the rest of the way. Adam Vinatieri hit a field goal in the second quarter and Dominic Rhodes found the end zone on a one-yard rush to put the Colts up 16-14 heading into halftime. In the third quarter, Vinatieri hit two more field goals before the Bears added one of their own, and in the fourth quarter the Colts clinched it with a Kelvin Hayden pick-six. He intercepted Rex Grossman’s pass deep downfield and took it back 56 yards for the score, putting the Colts up 29-17 with 11:44 left in the Super Bowl. The Bears would get three more possessions but wouldn’t score any more points.
Finally, the clock hit zero and the Colts were Super Bowl champions. They had made a historic playoff run, as led by a defensive turnaround they beat the Chiefs and the Ravens in their first two games. Then in a thrilling comeback they defeated the Patriots in the AFC Championship game before defeating the Bears in the Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning was named the game’s MVP for his efforts, completing 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown along with an interception. The real stars of the day for the Colts, however, were Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai. Rhodes rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown while Addai rushed for 77 yards but added ten catches for 66 yards. Combined, Rhodes and Addai touched the football 51 times (on 63% of Indy’s offensive plays) and accounted for 264 total yards (61.4% of the Colts’ offensive yardage). The defense was also terrific, holding the Bears to just 265 yards while forcing five turnovers.
The Colts would reach the Super Bowl just three years later, but would lose a heartbreaker to the New Orleans Saints. Though Manning has been to two other Super Bowls since that, the Colts haven’t been back since. The Super Bowl XLI title remains the only championship in the Indianapolis chapter of the Colts’ franchise history, and it remains an incredible moment for Colts fans and players on that team.
Ten years ago today, the Colts were finally Super Bowl champions.