INDIANAPOLIS – Though relatively close geographic neighbors, the Colts and Lions are nearly an NFL universe apart in only meeting once every four years with the league’s scheduling formula.
The teams had twice annual meetings from 1953-66, then met once a year until the 1970 Merger. Since the Colts joined the AFC, the franchises have met but nine times.
Sunday’s game at will mark the Colts’ second league appearance at Ford Field, though Indianapolis did appear in the venue during the 2009 preseason.
Indianapolis will be seeking its third straight series win, and this is just the fourth meeting in 12 years. The last two renewals, Colts wins in 2004 and 2008, are featured in this week’s Series Flashback.
Colts 41, Lions 9 – November 25, 2004 – Playing on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1965 (a 24-24 tie with the Lions), Indianapolis was in the middle of a truly noteworthy offensive season.
A year that saw the club amass 522 points brought Indianapolis to its Ford Field debut having scored at least 24 points in each of its first 10 games, while earning a 7-3 record.
The Colts had scored 45 and 31 points at home against Green Bay and Minnesota and 41 at Chicago a week prior to meeting the 4-6 Lions, and this would close action against the NFC North.
The short week ended a stretch of four games in 18 days for Indianapolis, but it had no affect on the team’s high-powered attack.
The Colts’ offense dominated behind one of Peyton Manning’s finest career performances, and it started quickly.
Manning and the offense opened with a nine-play, 79-yard drive, with wide receiver Brandon Stokley catching a four-yard touchdown pass.
The Lions added a field goal in response, but it was coming against a team that scored 66 touchdowns on the year, compared to only 20 field goals. So potent was the offense that it would score more touchdowns than it would have punts (54) on the season, a first for the franchise since 1958.
Manning this day was not settling for field goals. A seven-play, 60-yard drive led to Manning and Stokley once again hooking up for a score. Stokley’s 12-yard touchdown gave Indianapolis a 13-3 lead (the extra point was blocked) with 4:20 left in the first quarter.
Hanson added another field goal on the following drive to cut the lead to 13-6 heading into the second quarter.
The Colts’ defense set up a short field for the offense moments later as linebacker Rob Morris had a sack-fumble of Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington and defensive tackle Montae Reagor fell on the loose ball.
Five plays later, Manning and Stokley found paydirt again, this time from 25 yards out with 2:20 remaining in the half.
It quickly got worse when Colts linebacker David Thornton stripped running back Shawn Bryson two plays later and defensive end
Two Edgerrin James rushes gained 18 yards, then Manning found wide receiver Marvin Harrison for a 13-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left.
Leading 27-6, the Colts would head into halftime with an 18-point lead after Hanson connected on his third first-half field goal at the gun.
Any chance for a second half comeback was removed from possibility as Indianapolis forced a three-and-out to begin the third quarter.
Manning and the offense went on an eight-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Harrison scoring a 10-yard touchdown.
After another three-and-out, the Lions defense forced a stop but Colts long-snapper Justin Snow created a fumble on the punt return and punter Hunter Smith recovered.
With the Colts on the Lions 36-yard line, Manning took six plays to score as Harrison hauled in a five-yard touchdown to give Indianapolis a 41-9 lead with 2:11 left in the quarter.
The Colts defense forced two turnovers in the fourth quarter, but the scoring was done for the day.
It was a Thanksgiving to remember for the Colts with a convincing 41-9 victory.
Manning (23-of-28 for 236 yards) tied his club record with six touchdown passes. It joined his outing at New Orleans in 2003 with as many scoring tosses, and he had more TD passes in each of those two games (six) than he had incompletions (five).
The win was the Colts’ third straight 40 -point output and the 30 -point margin of victory outing.
Harrison (12 catches for 127 yards and three TDs) and Stokley (five catches for 57 yards and three TDs) tied the club record for most scoring receptions in a game, while James rushed 23 times for 105 yards.
Manning set an NFL record with his fifth straight game with at least four touchdown passes, while becoming then the third NFL player with 40-plus seasonal touchdown passes. Manning ended the year with 19 touchdown passes against NFC North competition.
The Colts defense accounted for five takeaways and three sacks.
Colts 31, Lions 21 – December 14, 2008 – The teams met in the 15th week of the regular season while on different courses. The Colts were 9-4 after a 3-4 start and had no room for error in trying to earn a seventh straight playoff berth and a sixth consecutive season with 12 or more wins.
Detroit was in a season of struggle but brought plenty of fight to Lucas Oil Stadium.
After the Lions made two separate 11-point comebacks, the Colts turned things up in the final nine minutes to record their 10th win of the season.
The Colts jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game. Running back Dominic Rhodes scored from one-yard out to cap a 7:22 drive that covered 78 yards in 14 plays.
Detroit would get on the board a few minutes later after capitalizing on a Colts special teams turnover. After Colts cornerback Keiwan Ratliff fumbled a punt, Lions kicker Jason Hanson added a 51-yard field goal to make the score 7-3 with 4:45 left in the quarter.
Indianapolis added a second-period touchdown when running back Chad Simpson plunged in from two yards out with 5:29 left in the first half.
The Lions wasted no time answering the touchdown as quarterback Dan Orlovsky drove the offense 69 yards in three plays, with wide receiver Calvin Johnson hauling in a leaping 33-yard touchdown.
Leaving 3:36 on the clock, the Colts offense once again went to work with an eight-play, 78-yard drive as Manning found tight end Dallas Clark for a three-yard touchdown with 47 seconds left before the half.
The Colts’ 21-10 halftime lead was trimmed to 21-13 early in the third quarter with another Hanson field goal.
Detroit then tied the game early in the fourth quarter as running back Kevin Smith scored on a one-yard touchdown before Orlovsky converted the two-point conversion on a pass to tight end Casey Fitzsimmons.
Trimming a second 11-point deficit was not enough to deter Indianapolis. The Colts answered with a seven-play, 88-yard drive that Rhodes capped with a one-yard touchdown for a 28-21 lead.
The Indianapolis defense forced a Lions punt on the ensuing possession with 5:21 left, and the offense executed a drive forcing Detroit to use its timeouts. The possession ended with 39 seconds left when
Clark led Indianapolis with 12 catches for 142 yards and a touchdown and became the first tight end in club history to finish a game with at least 10 receptions. Manning was 28-of-37 for 318 yards.
With the win, the Colts became the only team in the NFL to win at least seven straight games in five consecutive seasons, a record they would extend in 2009. Indianapolis also became the third NFL team to post 10 wins in seven consecutive years, and it reached the 12-win total and made the playoffs by winning the last two games.