INDIANAPOLIS – The National Football League is celebrating its 100th year in 2019, and throughout the season has unveiled several “NFL 100 Greatest” countdowns. Tonight’s countdown was the initial “NFL 100 Greatest Teams” list, which featured four Colts squads.
The 2006 Indianapolis Colts (No. 37 overall), the 1968 Baltimore Colts (No. 44), the 1970 Baltimore Colts (No. 72) and the 2009 Indianapolis Colts (No. 75) all made the cut tonight. Here’s a little on each team:
No. 37: 2006 Indianapolis Colts
Head coach: Tony Dungy
Regular season record: 12-4 (first place, AFC South)
Postseason results: Defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round (23-8); defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round (15-6); defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game (38-34); defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI (29-17)
Pro Bowlers: Tackle Tarik Glenn, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, quarterback Peyton Manning, center Jeff Saturday, wide receiver Reggie Wayne
First-Team All-Pros: Wide receiver Marvin Harrison
Storyline: The 2006 Colts might not have been the most talented team of the Peyton Manning Era, but it was the one that finally got the franchise’s proverbial monkey – the Patriots – off its back and brought home its first Super Bowl championship since the team moved to Indianapolis in 1984. By Jan. 21, 2007, the embattled Colts had already won two playoff contests over the Chiefs and the Ravens, and by halftime of the AFC Championship Game against the rival Patriots at the RCA Dome, it seemed as if Indy’s run was over, as the Colts went into the break trailing 21-6. But a little Manning Magic, coupled with some clutch defensive play, would eventually see the Colts tie the game at 21 in the third quarter, and after some back-and-forth blows down the stretch, rookie running back Joseph Addai would run it into the end zone with about a minute left in the game to put Indy up by four, 38-34. Cornerback Marlin Jackson would pick off Tom Brady four plays into New England’s final drive to seal the AFC title for the Colts, officially putting a bow on an 18-point come-from-behind victory, the largest in Conference title game history. The Colts would take care of the Bears, 29-17, two weeks later in a rain-soaked Dolphin Stadium in Miami to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Indianapolis for the first time.
No. 44: 1968 Baltimore Colts
Head coach: Don Shula
Regular season record: 13-1 (first place, NFL Coastal Division)
Postseason results: Defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the Western Conference Championship Game (24-14); defeated the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship Game (34-0); lost to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III (16-7)
Pro Bowlers: Defensive back Bobby Boyd, linebacker Mike Curtis, tight end John Mackey, running back Tom Matte, defensive tackle Fred Miller, quarterback Earl Morrall, wide receiver Willie Richardson, tight end Bob Vogel
First-Team All-Pros: Defensive back Bobby Boyd, linebacker Mike Curtis, tight end John Mackey, quarterback Earl Morrall
NFL Most Valuable Player: Quarterback Earl Morrall
Storyline: With future Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas suffering a season-ending injury during preseason play, the 1968 Colts, led by another future Hall of Famer in head coach Don Shula, would turn to Earl Morrall to lead the offense – and Baltimore wouldn’t look back from there. Led by Morrall, who would be named league MVP that year, the Colts easily won their first five games, then fell to the Browns, 30-20, in Week 6, before reeling off 10 straight wins including postseason play; in the NFL Championship Game, the Colts were sure to exact revenge on the Browns, shutting them out 34-0 at Memorial Stadium. Baltimore was heavily favored in Super Bowl III over the AFL’s Jets, but New York’s popular young quarterback, Joe Namath, guaranteed victory three days before the game, and he would make good on his words at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 12, 1969, as the Colts would fall 16-7 in one of the biggest upsets in American sports history.
No. 72: 1970 Baltimore Colts
Head coach: Don McCafferty
Regular season record: 11-2-1 (first place, AFC East)
Postseason results: Defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the Divisional Round (17-0); defeated the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Conference Championship Game (27-17); defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V (16-13)
Pro Bowlers: Linebacker Mike Curtis, defensive back Jerry Logan, defensive lineman Bubba Smith
Storyline: Led by a first-year head coach in Don McCafferty after Don Shula left in the offseason to lead their AFC East rival Miami Dolphins, the 1970 season for the Baltimore Colts is perhaps best known as the final season for legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas, who threw for 2,213 yards and 14 touchdowns in his age-37 season. Unitas went out with a bang, leading the team to an 11-2-1 record in the regular season and claiming the AFC East Division title; he’d lead the team to victories over the Bengals and the Raiders in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and found one of his favorite targets, tight end John Mackey, for a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter of Super Bowl V against the Cowboys before suffering an injury and being knocked out of the game. Earl Morrall took over from there, and Baltimore would eventually escape the back-and-forth affair with its second Super Bowl title when Jim O’Brien knocked in the game-winning field goal from 32 yards out with five seconds left to give the Colts the 16-13 win.
No. 75: 2009 Indianapolis Colts
Head coach: Jim Caldwell
Regular season record: 14-2 (first place, AFC South)
Postseason results: Defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round (20-3); defeated the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game (30-17); lost to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV (31-17)
Pro Bowlers: Safety Antoine Bethea, tight end Dallas Clark, defensive end Dwight Freeney, quarterback Peyton Manning, defensive end Robert Mathis, center Jeff Saturday, wide receiver Reggie Wayne
First-Team All-Pros: Tight end Dallas Clark, defensive end Dwight Freeney, quarterback Peyton Manning
NFL Most Valuable Player: Quarterback Peyton Manning
Storyline: The 2009 Indianapolis Colts were on the brink of history down the stretch, as they entered their Week 16 home game against the Jets with a perfect 14-0 record. But after pulling ahead 15-10 in the third quarter, first-year head coach Jim Caldwell began to pull the team’s starters – namely quarterback Peyton Manning – as a precaution, and Indy would eventually see the Jets fly home with a 29-15 victory, ending the chance at a perfect season. But the Colts found their mojo again once the postseason began, earning easy wins over the Ravens and the Jets in the first two rounds before facing off against Drew Brees and the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Indy took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter, but New Orleans would keep fighting, going into halftime trailing 10-6. Saints head coach Sean Payton’s big gamble to start the second half would pay huge dividends, as New Orleans would recover an onside kick and go down and score the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing drive, stealing the momentum. Indy would actually go into the fourth quarter with a 17-16 lead, but the Saints would go on a 15-0 run over the final 15 minutes – capped by a 74-yard pick six by cornerback Tracy Porter – to hand the Colts a 31-17 loss.