2006 Colts Team Ranked Among Best Of All-Time

Intro: The Indianapolis Colts were the winningest franchise in the NFL in the 2000s, but it was their 2006 Super Bowl championship-winning team that recently made the cut on a Bleacher Report article ranking the best teams in NFL history.

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INDIANAPOLIS — 115 wins, 45 losses. That's a winning percentage of .718.

From 2000 through 2009, the Indianapolis Colts pieced together the winningest decade in National Football League history, as double-digit win seasons became the norm for a raucous fanbase at the RCA Dome and, later, a brand new Lucas Oil Stadium.

And although two of those seasons, 2005 and 2014, produced rare 14-win campaigns, teams are generally judged on how they finish out the year. And just one of them would end up coming out on top.

For that reason, that squad, the World Champion 2006 Colts, was recently ranked by Bleacher Report as one of the best teams in NFL history. You can read the entire piece by clicking here, but writer Mike Tanier explains why he has the 2006 Colts at No. 25 on this list:

"The 2006 Colts probably weren't the best Peyton Manning Colts team of the mid-2000s. They just happened to be the one that won a Super Bowl.

The 2005 and 2007 teams won more games and posted much better defensive stats. The 2005 Colts finished second in the NFL in points allowed, the 2007 Colts first, while the 2006 Colts finished 23rd.

Frankly, the 2006 Colts would not have made this countdown at all if teams did not get a bonus for their long-term excellence. They're boosted onto the list by a decade of Manning teams that won 12-14 games but lost in the playoffs. It's a group of teams that kept finishing a victory or two short of reaching our top 10.

The names and personalities are familiar to you: Manning, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The style of play is also familiar: Manning and Harrison running the route tree before dawn on Sunday morning, Manning barking audibles at the line, Dungy's Tampa-2 defense holding opponents at bay when they tried to catch up.

You know the storyline as well: outstanding in the regular season, foiled by the Patriots or otherwise snakebit in the playoffs.

But this was the year the Colts finally broke through, beat the Patriots in a memorable AFC Championship Game, beat the Bears in a rainy Super Bowl and redeemed all of the Colts teams of previous years that looked so much better in the regular season than this one yet lost in the playoffs like it was their cosmic destiny."

Last season saw the 10th anniversary celebration of these champions, and that team's great center, Jeff Saturday, put the entire experience — winning the title, and then coming back 10 years later — into perspective.

"Walking out there and hearing the fans and everyone standing back up and getting excited — the 'Reggie!' chant started away as we were walking out — and that brings back those memories of Sunday afternoons and getting ready to go," Saturday said. "And as you are walking out and watching the guys who are playing right now and realizing how fortunate you were to be around these men and these relationships. Like Peyton (Manning) just said, it is rare, man. It's is a rare thing and to be able as fortunate as we were with a nucleus of guys that we were with for as long as we were with and together and to be able to celebrate this one, it doesn't get better."

The 2006 team wasn't the only Colts team to make Tanier's list, however. In 1968, the Baltimore Colts won the NFL title once again, and while they would infamously fall to Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, they are still considered one of the greatest teams of all time, coming in at No. 23 on this countdown. Tanier writes:

"Keeping the 1968 Colts off this countdown because they lost Super Bowl III to Joe Namath's Jets would be like keeping the 2007 Patriots off for what happened in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl against the Giants.

Actually, it would be worse. The Colts were the NFL champions in 1968. The Super Bowl was still an interleague game between opponents who never faced each other and played different styles of football. Don Shula's 1968 Colts did everything NFL champions had ever been asked to do for the previous 40-plus years. They just ran into destiny in that extra game Pete Rozelle dreamed up at the end.

The Colts finished 11-1-2 with Johnny Unitas at quarterback the previous year but missed the playoffs because of the weird rules of the time. (The Rams finished 11-1-2 in the same division and won the tiebreaker; there were no wild cards). Unitas suffered an arm injury in the final game of the 1968 preseason, so Shula turned to veteran backup Earl Morrall and also to one of the stingiest defenses of that or any era.

Morrall threw 26 touchdown passes to Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey and blazing receivers Jimmy Orr and Willie Richardson. Meanwhile, the pass defense led by Bobby Boyd intercepted 29 passes and allowed just nine passing touchdowns. The Colts shut out four opponents, including the Browns in the NFL Championship Game, and held three other opponents to a touchdown or less.

If it weren't for those pesky Jets, they'd be in the top 10. Heck, a healthy Unitas would have landed them in the top five.

But these Colts kept running into fate.

Still, what a team they were."

The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.

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