INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts and Jets are meeting for the first time in regular-season play since 2009, and Sunday’s battle in MetLife Stadium will mark a new venue for Indianapolis.
These franchises met first in Super Bowl III in Miami’s Orange Bowl on January 12, 1969, and the Colts and New York soon afterward were paired in the AFC East after the 1970 Merger.
As division mates, the clubs met twice annually from 1970-2001 before realignment meant a new home for the Colts. Indianapolis moved to the AFC South, while the Jets and the rest of the East – Buffalo, Miami and New England – remained intact.
The teams have met six times since realignment, with three of those coming in the playoffs. The Jets bested the Colts twice in the Wild Card Round (41-0 at the Jets on January 4, 2003; 17-16 in Indianapolis on January 8, 2011). The Colts took the other battle, the AFC Championship game, in Lucas Oil Stadium on January 24, 2010, 30-17.
The Colts have met the Jets in two prior venues in New York. The Colts were 8-6 in Shea Stadium and 13-7 against the Jets in Giants Stadium.
Today’s series flashback starts with the intial meeting of the last season the teams were members of the AFC East.
Colts 45, Jets 24 – September 9, 2001 – Fresh off back-to-back playoff appearances under Head Coach Jim Mora, the Colts made the trek to the Meadowlands to take on the Jets in the season opener. They were facing a Jets team coming off a 9-7 record, but who were debuting under new Head Coach Herman Edwards.
The teams traded punts on the game’s first two possessions before the offenses began to find their rhythm.
Set up by a Chad Morton punt return, Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde hit wide receiver Laveranues Coles on a 38-yard touchdown after a three-play drive.
The Colts would get on the board in 2001 with kicker Mike Vanderjagt converting a 37-yard field goal to answer the Coles strike.
The first quarter ended with the Jets leading, 7-3, and the Colts facing a fourth-and-one from the New York 29-yard line.
Running back Edgerrin James took the short-yardage challenge all the way to the end zone with a 29-yard burst on the first play of the second quarter.
The James touchdown opened the floodgates for the Colts’ scoring in the second quarter, but not before a little suspense.
Quarterback Peyton Manning was picked off at the Jets’ three-yard line by linebacker Marvin Jones on the next Indianapolis possession.
However, Colts offensive tackle Adam Meadows stripped Jones of the football and Manning eventually recovered to keep the Colts with possession.
From the Jets 22, James rattled off four straight runs, the last coming from one yard out for his second touchdown on the afternoon.
The Jets would avenge the Jones fumble on the team’s next possession as Colts punt returner Terrence Wilkins fumbled a punt at the Indianapolis six-yard line.
On the first play following the fumble, Jets running back Curtis Martin scored from six yards out to cut the Indianapolis lead to 17-14 with 3:30 to play in the first half.
Manning and the offense answered with an 80-yard drive in eight plays, capped off by wide receiver Jerome Pathon scoring on a 21-yard reception.
After a “quiet” first quarter, the scoring in the second frame certainly made up for it, and was not about to slow down with just 1:29 left in the half.
The Colts defense was able to force a three-and-out and with 38 seconds left in the half, and Wilkins went back to field his first punt since fumbling earlier in the quarter.
Wilkins showed his ability to forget rather quickly and took the punt 78 yards for a touchdown to complete a 28-point second quarter for the visitors.
The Colts led at the break, 31-14. The offensive output was a sign of things to come for Indianapolis. The team had hit 30 or more points in seven games in 2000 and it would tally 87 points in the first two games of 2001. The offensive exploits would continue for years and on this day, the unit had 284 net yards after 30 minutes, with James having 95 on the ground and Manning having 180 in the air.
Trying to sustain that production in the second half, the Colts hit a speed bump on the first possession of the second half.
New York turned a Manning interception into a 22-yard field goal to cut the score to 31-17 with 11:27 remaining the third quarter.
Any chance for a Jets comeback was thwarted quickly as Manning drove the offense 75 yards in 11 plays, with tight end Marcus Pollard scoring on a five-yard catch.
Testaverde threw his second touchdown of the afternoon on the first play of the fourth quarter to bring New York again within two touchdowns.
The Jets were not going to give up and followed the Testaverde strike with a drive all the way down to the Colts’ two-yard line with just more than five minutes remaining.
On a fourth-and-one, Testaverde bobbled the exchange and Colts defensive end Chukie Nwokorie grabbed the ball and rumbled 95 yards for a touchdown. Testaverde gave chase to mid-field, where Nwokorie eluded him to complete the run, after which he fell into the end zone in exhaustion. The fumble return was the longest in club history and is the second-longest defensive touchdown in Colts history.
James led the offense with 135 yards on 28 carries to go along with his pair of touchdowns. This marked the 20th time James had rushed for more than 100 yards in just 33 career games.
Manning was 22-for-32 for 231 yards and two touchdowns, while Pathon had eight receptions for 93 yards. After the first score of the game, Indianapolis went on a 38-10 spree in producing the outcome.
The win marked the third straight season the Colts triumphed on opening day.
Colts 31, Jets 28 – October 1, 2006 – Making their first regular-season trip to the Meadowlands since being AFC East rivals, the Colts won in dramatic fashion thanks to a potent offense and a will to win.
The Colts defense got things started in the first minute of play with defensive end
Behind a no-huddle offense, running back Dominic Rhodes punched in a six-yard touchdown sweep after a four-play, 26-yard drive to give the Colts an early 7-0 lead.
The teams traded punts on their next six possessions before the scoring picked up-tempo in the second quarter.
New York ran its own no-huddle offense and it paid off with Pennington finding wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery for a 33-yard touchdown to tie the score at seven with 10:10 remaining in the second quarter.
The Jets went into their bag of tricks following the Cotchery touchdown with an onside kick by Mike Nugent, and they recovered the kick at the their 43-yard line.
Pennington and the offense ate up a little more than five minutes of the clock with an 11-play, 57-yard drive that was finished off by a one-yard touchdown running back Kevan Barlow. New York converted a fourth down on the way, while Indianapolis twice was hit with third-down penalties that extended the march.
Down 14-7 with 4:44 left in the first half, the Colts’ offense ate up all but 16 seconds of the remaining time with an 11-play, 85-yard touchdown drive.
Running back Joseph Addai continued the “two-headed monster” in the backfield with Rhodes with a two-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 14 heading into halftime.
The third quarter did not have any scoring, but it was a play late in the stanza that would go a long way to deciding this battle.
Colts linebacker Rocky Boiman picked off Pennington on a fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line to end an almost nine-minute Jets drive. The Jets had kept possession for 16 plays while moving 77 yards on the drive.
Boiman’s touchback gave the Colts’ offense a chance to get back on the field. The offense responded by moving 78 yards in 15 plays. The Colts gained six yards on first-and-goal from the seven, but could not cash in on two following rushes. Kicker Martin Gramatica hit a 20-yard field goal for a 17-14 Colts advantage 2:02 into the period.
The Jets countered the field goal with an 11-play, 62-yard drive for another Barlow touchdown run, this one from five yards out. The 3-0 Colts were facing another deficit, 21-17.
The back-and-forth final quarter was just getting started, however. Manning and the offense had an answer for the Jets’ score.
Once again not utilizing a huddle, the Colts marched down the field behind the legs of Addai and a few timely passes from Manning.
Addai rushed six times and caught a pass. Manning teamed with Marvin Harrison twice on the drive and finished it by hitting tight end Bryan Fletcher for a two-yard touchdown to give the Colts a 24-21 lead with 2:34 remaining.
It was a snappy drive that should have counted as a fourth-quarter game-winner for Manning. Instead, he would have to do it again.
New York kick returner Justin Miller gave the lead back to the Jets with a 103-yard touchdown return 14 seconds after Indianapolis had taken the lead.
The Giants Stadium crowd of 77,190 responded accordingly. The Jets had a 28-24 lead, but 2:20 remained.
Even without any time outs, the Colts had more than enough time to win. Head Coach Tony Dungy, in what would become a mantra for the team in later seasons, went to work. He corralled Manning before the offense took the field, reassuring his Pro Bowl quarterback there was enough time and that hurrying was not necessary.
Dungy provided the famous words, “This is just like Thursday afternoon on 56th Street.” He was referring to the day of the week the team practiced its two-minute offense. Manning nodded and took the field.
Manning led the offense on a nine-play, 61-yard drive to settle the matter. He completed passes on six of the first eight plays, netting 60 yards and reaching the New York one with the clocking ticking under one minute to play. Manning sneaked across with 50 seconds left to complete the scoring.
Any final-minute heroics were nowhere to be found as the Colts escaped The Meadowlands with a 31-28 win.
The Colts’ rushing attack of Addai (20 carries, 84 yards and a touchdown) and Rhodes (15 carries, 75 yards and a touchdown) made up a large part of the Indianapolis production.
In addition to his scoring run, Manning hit 21-of-30 passes for 217 yards and a score. Manning reached 250 career touchdown passes in his 132nd game, the second-fastest NFL pace. He also became the first Colts quarterback with a game-winning touchdown run in the final minute of a game.
Harrison (956 receptions) moved past Andre Reed for fourth-place in NFL receptions and past Art Monk for ninth-most in yardage.
Mathis led a Colts defensive unit with two sacks, and the defense had two crucial takeaways to set up scores.
The win for the Colts was the 25th consecutive regular-season victory for the club in games played without a playoff berth being clinched.