INDIANAPOLIS — The Horseshoe has been a huge part of some of the greatest moments in National Football League history.
And now that the NFL has reached its 100th anniversary with the start of the 2019 season, the importance of those moments — for the Indianapolis Colts and every other franchise — are getting put into their proper context.
Last week, the NFL began its series "NFL 100 Greatest Games," in which two Colts classics — the 2003 miraculous come-from-behind victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football (No. 65) and the Andrew Luck-led Wild Card Round comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs from the 2013 season (No. 61) — made the list.
Tonight, though, in the second and final part of the "NFL 100 Greatest Games" countdown — the part of the list in which the matchups, and the outcomes, were downright historic — two more Colts classics made the cut.
The 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants lived up to its billing as "the greatest game ever played" by topping the "NFL 100 Greatest Games" list, while the Colts' epic comeback victory to topple their hated rival New England Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game was ranked 21st.
Here's a taste of both games, with recaps from The Associated Press:
No. 21: Peyton's Revenge (Jan. 21, 2007)
INDIANAPOLIS — The demons can relocate to some other team's locker room. Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy are Super Bowl material now.
Manning led the Colts from 18 points down in the second quarter, and on a game-winning 80-yard drive late in the fourth, for a wildly entertaining 38-34 victory Sunday over the New England Patriots in the AFC title game.
He took Dungy along for the ride, helping his coach finally get to the big game and make some history along the way. In two weeks, Dungy will join Chicago's Lovie Smith in the Super Bowl, where together they will be the first black head coaches to meet in the NFL's biggest game.
"It means a lot," Dungy said. "I'm very proud to be representing African-Americans. I'm very proud of Lovie."
Manning wouldn't concede that he got a monkey off his back with the win, the biggest in his nine-year NFL career.
"I don't get into monkeys and vindication," he said. "I don't play that card. I know how hard I worked this season, I know how hard I worked this week."
The Colts are the early favorites to beat the NFC champion Bears in the Super Bowl, by a touchdown.
Sunday's game was a show for the ages, and Manning was the star. He threw for 349 yards and one touchdown and brought his team back from a 21-3 deficit, the biggest comeback in conference title-game history.
The Patriots (14-5) lost in the championship game for the first time in six tries and saw their hopes of winning four Super Bowls in six years -- a la the Steelers of the late 70s -- derailed by Manning and Co.
Joseph Addai capped Manning's late drive with the winning score, a 3-yard run with 1 minute left to help the Colts (15-4) complete the rally and give them their first lead in the game.
After the final score, Manning was on the sideline, his head down, unable to watch. Brady threw an interception to Marlin Jackson and the RCA Dome crowd went wild. One kneel down later and Manning ripped off his helmet to celebrate.
"I said a little prayer on that last drive," Manning said. "I don't know if you're supposed to pray for stuff like that, but I said a little prayer."
Not only was it a win for Manning, the All-Pro, All-Everything son of Archie, it was a riveting, back-and-forth showcase of two of the NFL's best teams, best quarterbacks, and yet another example of why football is America's favorite sport.
It was anything but a by-the-book game, and that started becoming obvious when New England left guard Logan Mankins opened the scoring by pouncing on a fumbled handoff between Brady and Laurence Maroney that squirted into the Indy end zone midway through the first quarter.
It got worse from there for Manning, who telegraphed a throw to the sideline that Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel snatched and took 39 yards into the end zone for a 21-3 lead.
Then, the game plan changed because it had to, and the game morphed from another Manning meltdown into something much more.
He led the Colts on an 80-yard drive late in the first half for a field goal to make it 21-6. In the third quarter, he was at his cruel best, dissecting an exhausted Patriots defense for a pair of long drives and scores.
The first came on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. The second was capped by a 1-yard pass to Dan Klecko, a defensive tackle who came in as a supposed decoy at the goal line. A circus catch by Marvin Harrison for the 2-point conversion tied the game at 21.
"I'm so proud of the way our guys fought," Dungy said. "I'm very happy for Peyton. He was very, very calm. He had to bring us from behind three or four times. It's just fitting. Our team went the hard way the whole year."
After Indy's tying score, the Patriots answered with an 80-yard kickoff return by Ellis Hobbs, which set up a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Jabar Gaffney. Officials awarded the score to Gaffney after ruling he was forced out of the back of the end zone by an Indy defender.
Manning came right back but his handoff to Dominic Rhodes misfired. The ball scooted forward and center Jeff Saturday got this touchdown to tie the score at 28.
After that drive, Manning could be seen on the sideline, nursing a sore thumb. But he wasn't coming out.
"I was a little worried at first, but I went over, made a few warmup throws and it was fine," he said. "I guess adrenaline pulled me through there a little, too."
The teams traded field goals, and Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski put New England ahead 34-31 on a 43-yarder with 3:49 left.
After a touchback, it was time for Manning's drive: 11 yards to Reggie Wayne, 32 yards to Bryan Fletcher, a scary completion to Wayne, who nearly lost the ball but snatched it back.
A roughing-the-passer call gave Indy the ball at the 11, then Manning handed off three straight times to Addai for the last 11 yards.
This 80-yard march came 20 years after John Elway made his first Super Bowl with The Drive.
"I watched the drive with Elway, you never get tired of seeing that," Manning said. "I'm not comparing what we just did to that, but it sounds pretty good."
It was Manning at his best.
He was 0-2 in the playoffs against New England, and saw another great chance for the Super Bowl disappear last year in a home loss to Pittsburgh. The storyline all week was what a break the Colts got in getting the Patriots at home, and what a sensational feeling it would be to finally knock off the team that bedeviled them most.
That story had a happy ending for the Colts, as Patriots coach Bill Belichick found himself uncharacteristically unable to shut down Manning and Co.
"We played the defenses we thought were best for our football team," Belichick said. "That's all we did."
The Colts piled on 455 yards and scored on six of their final eight drives, not counting the one where Manning kneeled down. The mystique that seemed so prevalent last week in an upset win over San Diego seemed missing, and this looked like a tired, desperate, defeated team in the end. Maybe it was due in part to a flu bug that worked its way through its locker room during the week.
So while that dynasty is dead, it is now Manning's turn to take a shot at starting a new one.
"Some of that stuff is a little deep for me," Manning said. "I just wanted to do my job and do my job well. I didn't think I needed to be super. I just needed to be good."
On this defining day, it turns out he was both.
No. 1: "The Greatest Game Ever Played" (Dec. 28, 1958)
NEW YORK — The Baltimore Colts, directed by the golden arm of Johnny Unitas and driven by the flying feet of Alan Ameche, roared back from almost certain defeat to whip the New York Giants, 23-17, in a sudden death overtime period for the National Football League championship today.
It was Ameche who climaxed the winning 80-yard march by plunging over the goal line from the one for the payoff touchdown after eight minutes and 15 seconds of the extra period. And it was Unitas who spearheaded the drive by completing four passes for 46 yards putting the Colts in the position to score.
The Giants appeared to have their fifth championship in the bag after coming from behind with a pair of electrifying second-half touchdowns to take a 17-14 lead.
JUST BEAT CLOCK
But with 10 seconds remaining, Steve Myhra kicked a 20-yard field goal to tie the score and cast a pall over the highly partisan crowd of 64,185 Yankee Stadium spectators.
The emotion-spent crowd sensed a break for the Giants when they won the toss of the coin and elected to receive the extra period kickoff. However, they couldn't move the ball and were forced to punt. It took the Colts 13 plays to score the winning touchdown.
The key play was Unitas' 21-yard pass to Ray Berry on third down and 15, which moved the Colts to the Giants' 43.
Ameche, a devastating runner all afternoon, romped 23 yards down the middle to the 20. After L.G. Dupre failed to gain, Unitas connected with a 12-yard toss to Berry and hit Jim Mutscheller with a 6-yarder after Ameche had gotten a yard.
Now the Colts had third down on the 1. With the Giant line practically breathing down the necks of the Colts, Ameche hurtled over right guard for the score.
COLTS LEAD AT HALF
It was Ameche's second touchdown. He had scored the first touchdown, plunging over from the 2 as the Colts overcame an early 3-0 Giant lead accomplished by Pat Summerall's 36-yard first period field goal.
A 15-yard touchdown pass from Unitas to Berry in the second period, followed by Myrha's second point-after-touchdown, gave the Colts a 14-3 half time lead.
Baltimore appeared well on the way to its first championship in seven years in the NFL. But the Giants suddenly brought the crowd to its feet with two spectacular touchdown drives within five minutes to overcome an 11-point deficit and take a 17-14 lead.
Charley Conerly, the aging but still brilliant quarterback, was the hero of the Giants' twin scoring drives. The first came in the waning moments of the third quarter the other in the first minute of the fourth period.
The Giants were deep in their own territory and apparently going nowhere when Conerly uncorked a long throw from the Giant 13 to the 45 where Kyle Rote made a spectacular catch. He evaded two would-be tacklers and finally was hauled down from behind on the Colts' 25
CROWD GOES WILD
Hit hard by safety man Andy Nelson, Rote fumbled but the ball was picked up by Alex Webster, who carried it to the one before he was knocked out of bounds. Two plays later Mel Triplett drove over for the score.
The suddenly charged-up Giants, after forcing the Colts to punt, needed only four plays to score again. Once more it was Conerly who led the way. The 37-year-old Mississippian threw passes and completed them all, after Webster picked up three yards on the ground.
He whipped a 17-yarder to Bob Schnelker, followed it up with a longer one of 46 yards to the same receiver, then completed a 15-yard touchdown aerial to Frank Gifford. Summerall's second point-after-touchdown made it New York 17, Baltimore 14 after 53 seconds of the fourth quarter and the crowd went wild.
Late in the fourth period the Giants, with a three-point lead, declined to gamble with inches to go for a first and ten on the fourth down. Instead Don Chandler was called on to punt. The Colts then started their drive from their own 20 that put the ball in position for Myhra's tying field goal.
Statistically, the Colts had all the better of it. They gained a total of 460 yards to 266 for the Giants. They picked up 27 first downs to 10 for the losers.
Unitas, whose second period scoring pass marked the twenty-sixth consecutive game he has thrown at least one touchdown, enjoyed a tremendous afternoon. He threw 40 passes and completed 26 of them for 349 yards. His longest was a 60-yarder to Lenny Moore in the first period but it went for naught when Myrha's field goal attempt from the 26 was blocked by Sam Huff.
HAULED IN DOZEN
Berry, who tied Philadelphia's Pete Retzlaff for league pass catching honors with 56 receptions during the season, hauled in a dozen Unitas heaves for 178 yards. Moore caught six, Mutscheller and Ameche three each and Dupre one.
Ameche, second only to Cleveland's Jimmy Brown in rushing yardage during the regular season, punched out 65 of the Colts' 138 yards on the ground in 14 carries. His longest was the 23-yard burst in the winning march. Dupre gained 30 yards, Moore 23 and Unitas carried for 20.
The Colts' defense came in for its share of glory. Led by Gino Marchetti, Gene (Big Daddy) Lipscomb, Don Joyce, Don Shinnick and Art Donovan, the Baltimore rib-cracking defense caused the Giants to fumble six times. The Colts recovered four of them.
Gifford fumbled twice in the second period and Baltimore went for touchdowns both times to take a 14-3 halftime lead.