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The Ten Toughest Indianapolis Colts Losses of All Time
1. At Pittsburgh Steelers 1996 playoffs Steelers 20 Colts 16
What hurts the worst? Why do I still think about this game once or twice a month? Is it Coryatt dropping the INT that would have won the game? Is it the Steelers 4th down conversion? Was it the ball dribbling off of Aaron Bailey’s chest? Was it the fact that I really thought we’d won? Was it Kordell Stewart running 3 yards out of bounds to catch a key touchdown right in front of an official? I don’t know, but this one hurt bad. I’ll never get over it because unlike the 2006 game, there was no redemption. The 1996 Colts the next season had a chance to be great until injuries ruined them. Sigh. I’m sick just typing this.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers 2006 Steelers 21 Colts 18
Only the Super Bowl win this season makes this game less than the most painful football experience of my life. The offensive line didn’t show up and Manning got killed for five sacks. Fortunately, he was clutch and seemed poised to drag the team back into the game by sheer will. The rest is sickening history. Harper gimping his way into a tackle by Rothlesberger. Vanderjagt proving that he is the world’s greatest choke job by shanking another big kick. After the game, I thought, “At least they won’t blame this one on Peyton. He’s the only one who showed up to play today besides Freeney”. I was wrong. The press inexplicably blamed the whole thing on him, once again showing that the modern press is insane.
3. At New England Patriots 2004 Patriots 27 Colts 24
This game was far worse than the ensuing playoff loss later that season. Had the Colts won this season opener, they playoff game against the Pats would have been in the dome. Instead, the team conspired to keep Manning from getting a key win over the Pats. Edge fumbled on the goal line late in the fourth to keep the team from pulling ahead. On a key third down with seconds to go, Dallas Clark refused to stay in and block, leaving the end uncovered for an easy sack of Peyton. The sack pushed the Colts back 7 yards and lead to yet another last second choke job by Vanderjagt. Manning took the heat for the loss, but it seemed to be everyone’s fault but his.
4. At New England Patriots 2004 playoffs Patriots 24 Colts 14
An ugly game all around that saw Manning press and throw 4 picks, three to Ty Law. Marvin Harrison also had a crucial fumble. The Colts receivers were harassed all game by the questionable tactics of the New England secondary. Tight End Marcus Pollard was famously mugged late in the game making a comeback impossible. It was one of the darkest days in franchise history.
5. Miami Dolphins 1999 Dolphins 34 Colts 31
In what should have been Manning’s coming out party, the officials stole this game from the Colts. Indy led 31-27 late, but Marino had the ball and was driving. He was sacked by Chad Bratzke and fumbled. Indy recovered and the game appeared over. The play was reviewed however, and despite visual evidence that Marino did in fact fumble (and the play was called a fumble on the field), the play was inexplicably overturned and Miami was awarded the football after an incomplete pass. The official would later claim not to have received the same angle the fans in the dome saw. Miami finished off the late touchdown drive as Marino repeatedly abused David Macklin.
6. At Buffalo Bills 1996 Bills 16 Colts 13 (OT)
This game may have cost the Colts a Super Bowl. Indy marched in at 4-0 and riding high after a tough Monday Night win over the Dolphins. In one of the most physically brutal games in years the Colts suffered one injury after another. After being down 10-0 in the second half, Harbaugh led the team on a clutch drive late in regulation to take the lead, but Kelley and the Bills drove back to force OT, and the Bills prevailed in the extra session. During that game the Colts suffered 12 injuries and lost 9 starters. The Colts did win the next week, but the season that started so promisingly went south soon after. The team limped into the playoffs, but never really recovered from this game.
7. New England Patriots 2003 Patriots 38 Colts 34
What can you say about this heartbreaker? The true hero for the Patriots was Bethel Johnson who ran a kickoff back 92 yards for a score just before halftime. The Colts proceeded to rally from a 21 point deficit to tie the game at 31. Johnson answered by returning the ensuing kickoff back 67 yards to give the Patriots a short field. Brady hit Deon Branch to put the Pats up 38-31. The Colts answered back with a field goal and a quick stop of the New England offense. Manning led the Colts down the field efficiently, utilizing the no-huddle to keep the Pats off-balance. The Patriots D was completely gassed and Edgerrin James was gaining yardage in chunks. He banged his way down to the one yard line. Patriots Linebacker Willie McGinest made the play of the year by going down with a hilariously fake injury, forcing the officials to stop the clock and the Colts momentum. The crowd knew it was fake, the refs knew it was fake, and the Colts knew it was fake. Later on McGinest would laugh coyly about the play, further fueling our rage. To this day if you want to anger a Colts fan mention this "injury". On fourth down, with 14 seconds left, there was McGinest back like Lazarus to catch Edgerrin James in the backfield and preserve the win for New England.
The Colts 2007 playoff win over New Englnad eerily mirrored this game with the clutch kickoff returns, the large deficit, and the gassed Patriot D down the stretch. People in the stands were actually talking about how similar it was during the course of the game, and Tony Dungy would later point to the similarities. Fittingly the game ended with the same 38 - 34 score. This time the Colts were able to ram home the rushing touchdown that had eluded them in the past.
8. At Miami Dolphins 2001 playoffs Dolphins 23 Colts 17 (OT)
Vanderjagt Chokes, Part one. The Colts jumped off to a lead that could have been even bigger, but Jerome Pathon dropped a TD pass. The defense weakened late in the game and allowed a tying score late. In OT, Manning led the team down field and faced a 3rd and 12 from the 42. He hit Harrison for 11 yards, setting up a 49 yard field goal. There was a 5 yard penalty on the play, but Jim Mora turned it down, and settled on Vandy trying to win it. He missed that FG by about 100 yards, shanking it badly to the right. The Dolphins got the ball back and rammed it down Indy’s throats for a TD.
9. Tennessee Titans 2000 playoffs Titans 19 Colts 16
The first ever playoff game in the dome ended miserably, as a more experienced Titans team won. The Colts gave up a long touch down run to Eddie George, had a potential game swinging 87 yard punt return called back, and had to deal with about 10,000 screaming Titans fans in the end zone. Colts reciever E.G. Green was carried off the field with a broken leg after a clutch 33 yard reception. This delayed the game about 15 minutes and brought the Colts offensive momentum to a halt, forcing them to settle for the second of three field goals. The Colts lone touchdown was a Manning keeper with less than two minutes to play. It was a miserable day.
10. At New Orleans Saints 1989 Saints 41 Colts 6
Needing just one more win to make the playoffs, the Colts marched into New Orleans and stunk. They were destroyed by home town hero John Forcade (whose fans were known as Forcade’s Brigade). The game was a route from the start and was never close. The Colts would end up trading up in the 1990 draft and selected Jeff George. They wouldn’t reach the playoffs for another 6 seasons.
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