INDIANAPOLIS – Certain parts of an NFL season have a little more juice than others and any team's home opener can provide that little extra feeling.
The Colts host the Browns today in the 2011 home opener, the 28th for the franchise in its Indianapolis era.
Cleveland will bring a talented team into Lucas Oil Stadium as the Colts try to get the home schedule off to a successful start.
The very first game in the Indianapolis era was the 1984 home opener, but the club was unable to win a battle against the New York Jets. Cleveland helped Indianapolis christen the 1992 season, and the Colts earned a 14-3 victory.
Since 1999, the Colts have produced the NFL's best regular-season mark (138-55), and some of the initial steps to building that record have been in home openers.
During that span, the Colts have a 9-3 record in the first home game of a season, including wins in seven of those last eight outings. The club's .750 winning percentage in home openers exceeds the overall winning percentage (.715) since the start of the 1999 season.
The fast starts at home have played a part in the successful records Indianapolis has had during that run. Since 1999, the club has failed to win 10 or more games in a season only once. The early wins have helped the team win its first five games on five different occasions, at least its first seven games four times and at least its first nine games three different times (2005, 2006, 2009).
Quick getaways in September have happened for Indianapolis eight times in the last nine seasons. The Colts have posted a 24-5 overall record in September since 2002, and only once during that time did the club not have a winning record during that month. Also during the 2002-2010 span, Indianapolis produced a 57-15 record at home, the second-best record in the NFL.
Past results do not guarantee future success. Indianapolis will have to earn its way today against Cleveland. The overall series (counting the post-season) stands in Cleveland's favor, 15-14. Indianapolis has won the past five meetings between the clubs, but only one of those battles was decided by more than five points. The teams last met in 2008, when Indianapolis won a tough battle in Cleveland, 10-6.
A LOOK BACK AT THE NINE VICTORIES IN HOME OPENERS SINCE 1999
September 12, 1999
Colts 31, Buffalo 14 – The Colts beat Buffalo to earn only the fourth opening-day win in their Indianapolis era. Peyton Manning was 21-33-284, 2 TDs passing, while rookie Edgerrin James (26-112, 1 TD rushing) had a big day, along with E.G. Green (5-124 receiving), Marvin Harrison (8-121, 2 TDs receiving), Chad Bratzke (three sacks) and Tony Blevins (74t interception return). James joined Alan Ameche, Randy McMillan and Marshall Faulk as Colts with 100 -yard rookie rushing debuts. Indianapolis held Buffalo to 47 yards on 15 rushes.
September 23, 2001
Colts 42, Buffalo 26 – The Colts rolled to 555 net yards and scored touchdowns on six straight possessions in beating Buffalo. Peyton Manning was 23-29-421, 4 TDs passing, while Marvin Harrison (7-146, 3 TDs receiving), Jerome Pathon (9-168, 1 TD receiving) and Edgerrin James (23-111, 1 TD rushing) had big days. Manning tied then a career-best with four scoring tosses before adding a 1t rush. James set then a franchise record with his fifth consecutive 100 rushing game. The Indianapolis defense yielded 19 points and had four sacks. The club scored 35 first-half points.
September 14, 2003
Colts 33, Tennessee 7 – Behind a defense that produced five sacks and two takeaways (one a 75t interception), the rushing of Edgerrin James (30-120, 1 TD rushing) and four Mike Vanderjagt field goals (29, 41, 23, 48 yards), the Colts beat Tennessee. Indianapolis trailed only for two and a half minutes of the contest, erasing a 7-3 second-quarter deficit to earn the win. Peyton Manning was 14-21-173, 1 TD passing, teaming with Marvin Harrison (3-59, 1 TD receiving) on a 35t strike. The win was the first for the Colts over Tennessee since joining the AFC South. Four different defensive linemen had sacks, including two by rookie Robert Mathis.
September 26, 2004
Colts 45, Green Bay 31 – Passing on the first 22 plays from scrimmage and totaling 35 first-half points, the Colts beat Green Bay. Peyton Manning (28-40-393, 5 TDs passing) had then the third 5 -TD game of his career, while Reggie Wayne (11-184, 1 TD receiving), Brandon Stokley (8-110, 2 TDs receiving) and Marvin Harrison (5-65, 1 TD receiving) had big days. Mike Vanderjagt booted a 45-yard field goal, tying his club-record streak of 21 consecutive games with a field goal. His kick was the 177th of his career, setting the new club record (176, Dean Biasucci). The Colts led at intermission, 35-17.
September 18, 2005
Colts 10, Jacksonville 3 – In a game that entered the third quarter scoreless, Indianapolis earned a comeback win over Jacksonville. Jacksonville's Josh Scobee hit a 28-yard field goal 8:01 into the period, but Indianapolis responded two possessions later with a 17-play, 88-yard march that consumed 8:59 and ended with a 6t rush by Ran Carthon. Mike Vanderjagt hit a 41-yard field goal with 1:54 to go. The Indianapolis defense held at its 22 as time expired. Edgerrin James was 27-128 rushing, while Peyton Manning was 13-28-122 passing. Indianapolis had six sacks, three by Montae Reagor.
September 17, 2006
Colts 43, Houston 24 – Taking a 7-0 lead 2:12 into the contest in a game it would never trail, Indianapolis beat Houston. Peyton Manning (26-38-400, 3 TDs passing) directed an attack that produced 515 yards, including Marvin Harrison (7-127 receiving) and Reggie Wayne (6-135 receiving) topping the 100-yard mark. Manning (2,820 career completions) moved past John Unitas (2,796) for most career Colts completions. The Colts defense produced four sacks and four fumbles. The victory started an eventual undefeated home record, making the Colts then only the 11th NFL team ever to produce a 10-0 home record (counting the playoffs) during a season.
September 6, 2007
Colts 41, New Orleans 10 – Scoring on five consecutive drives, the Colts turned a 10-7 deficit to a 34-10 lead on the way to beating New Orleans. Indianapolis tallied on its first four second-half possessions behind Peyton Manning (18-30-288, 3 TDs passing), Joseph Addai (23-118, 1 TD rushing) and Reggie Wayne (7-115, 2 TDs receiving), while the Indianapolis defense produced three takeaways to fuel the offensive burst. Manning hit Wayne on 28t and 45t plays, while Addai's 2t rush and Matt Giordano's 83t interception return pushed the Colts to victory. The Indianapolis defense yielded only a field goal, and the 31-point victory margin was the largest in club history for opening-day.
September 13, 2009
Colts 14, Jacksonville 12 – With a last-minute defensive stand near midfield, Indianapolis topped Jacksonville. Indianapolis led most of the way in a contest whose outcome was not settled until the defensive stand. Peyton Manning was 28-38-301, 1 TD passing, teaming with Reggie Wayne (10-162, 1 TD receiving) on a 35t third-quarter pass to provide a 14-6 cushion. Jim Caldwell became the eighth Colts head coach to win his career opener (Keith Molesworth, 1953; Don McCafferty, 1970; Ted Marchibroda, 1975; Mike McCormack, 1980; Ron Meyer, 1986; Lindy Infante, 1996; Tony Dungy, 2002). The victory gave the Colts their sixth 10 -game regular-season winning streak in franchise history (13, 2005; 11, 1964; 11, 1975-76; 11, 1999; 10, 2005-06).
September 19, 2010
Colts 38, New York Giants 14 – Indianapolis amassed 38 points, rushed for 160 yards and had three receivers tally touchdowns, while its defense recorded four sacks, forced three fumbles, had one interception and scored a touchdown in beating the New York Giants. Peyton Manning (20-26-255, 3 TDs passing) led an attack that included Joseph Addai (20-92 rushing) and Donald Brown (16-69, 1 TD rushing), while Reggie Wayne (7-96, 1 TD receiving) and TE-Dallas Clark (5-83, 1 TD receiving) had solid outings. Manning and Wayne teamed for their 63rd career TD connection, T2nd-most in club history (112, Manning-Marvin Harrison; 63, John Unitas-Raymond Berry). Manning and Clark teamed for their 43rd career TD connection, T2nd-most in NFL history for a QB-TE duo (45, Drew Bledsoe-Ben Coates; 43, Sonny Jurgensen-Jerry Smith). DEs-Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis each had two sacks, while Freeney had two forced fumbles and Mathis had one. Pat McAfee had five touchbacks on kickoffs (tying Adam Vinatieri at Denver 10/29/06 for the most single-game touchbacks in club history since the 1970 NFL Merger). The game pitted QBs-Peyton and Eli Manning for the second time (2006), the only NFL games ever featuring a brothers as starting QBs.