INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts and Dolphins meet this Sunday in a series that dates back to 1970, but one that has not been contested on a regular basis over the past decade.
The teams shared spots in the AFC East for 32 years from 1970 through 2001 before realignment split up the two franchises. Since then, the Colts and Dolphins have met four times, with the last two seasons being 2006 and 2009, seasons when the Colts ended playing in Super Bowls in Miami's home stadium.
The Colts are on a three-game series winning streak that does not depict the tilted nature of the series. Miami owns a 44-24 regular-season edge in the series, and the 68 games played are the second-most against one opponent in team history. The Colts have faced New England 72 times.
Miami swept the season series 15 times to the Colts' four. The teams split seasonal meetings on 13 occasions. Miami owns a 13-7 series lead in Indianapolis and will be making its first Lucas Oil Stadium appearance.
The last time the Colts swept the series was in 1995, a year Miami was touted among the league's most promising teams, while the Colts were in the second year of a rebuilding phase.
Indianapolis was the team that took flight and in addition to two compelling wins over Miami reached the AFC Championship game, narrowly missing a desperation pass at the gun that would have placed the Colts in Super Bowl XXX.
Here is a flashback to the 1995 Colts-Miami games:
Colts 27, Dolphins 24 (OT) – October 8, 1995 –Down 24-3 at halftime, the visiting Colts seemed destined for a third straight defeat in Miami.
The 2-2 Colts had faced this deficit before. Two weeks earlier at the New York Jets, Indianapolis trailed by the same score in a game it rebounded to win in overtime, 27-24. This time the club was sputtering in the first half, too, and it was facing a 4-0 Dolphins team that ranked fifth in the league in scoring offense and first in scoring defense. Miami had pieced together 19 former first-round draft picks to make a run at a title for Head Coach Don Shula. Shula's 1994 team fell a win shy of the conference championship game it had hosted two seasons before.
The Dolphins received the second half kickoff, so any hope for a comeback would have to start on the defensive side of the football.
After a drive that took 3:15 off the clock, the Colts forced a Dolphins punt and took over on their 15-yard line with aspirations for another comeback.
Quarterback Jim Harbaugh and the offense drove 85 yards over 14 plays, finished off by a three-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Floyd Turner.
The touchdown came on a fourth-and-goal and capped off an 8:15 drive to bring the Colts within 24-10 with 3:30 left in the third quarter. It was a march that included a successful fourth-down attempt from the Indianapolis 24 as the drive began. A punt in this situation was not what Head Coach Ted Marchibroda wanted from his club, and the team responded. Harbaugh and Turner collaborated on a third-down completion seconds before the score on the drive.
Miami answered with an impressive drive of its own that lasted into the early part of the final frame. Over 14 plays and 89 yards, Miami moved to the Colts' nine-yard line. Indianapolis caught a break when Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich missed a 27-yard field goal with 9:56 left in the game.
Harbaugh went to work again, and he needed execution quickly. Indianapolis faced a third-and-22 from its 23 three plays into the possession. Harbaugh found wide receiver Sean Dawkins on 16- and 14-yard receptions on consecutive plays and on the ensuing play, he found Turner for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Down 24-17 with 6:37 left, the Colts defense stood tall in defending a Miami drive that started at the Dolphins' 49-yard line.
Miami drove to the Colts' 35-yard line but Indianapolis forced a punt, and after a Dolphins penalty took over at the 24-yard line.
Needing a third touchdown drive in the final 3:50, Harbaugh was six-of-nine for 73 yards on the drive. He converted a fourth-and-two from his 32 with a four-yard run. His final pass found wide receiver Aaron Bailey for a 21-yard touchdown, tying the score at 24 with 1:09 remaining.
The Dolphins had two timeouts left and were able to drive into Colts territory. Miami took its final timeout after reaching the Indianapolis 31-yard line with 12 seconds remaining.
Stoyanovich could not connect on a 49-yard, game-winning field goal. Again against a divisional opponent on the road, the Colts had erased a 21-point second-half deficit and were heading to overtime.
The Colts won the overtime toss and took over at their 33-yard line after a 25-yard return by running back Lamont Warren.
An efficient Harbaugh once again was on-point, with a perfect five-of-five effort on the drive for 48 yards. A pair of runs by running back Marshall Faulk moved the Colts to the Dolphins' 10-yard line and the Colts trotted out kicker Cary Blanchard for a field goal.
Blanchard, a free agent signee the week of the game, converted the 27-yard field goal, and the Colts completed their second overtime victory in three tries in 1995.
On the Colts' final four drives, Harbaugh's passing numbers were 20-of-24 for 278 yards and a trio of touchdowns. His 319 yards passing for the game were a career-high.
The final four scoring drives for the Colts covered 85, 80, 76 and 57 yards, featuring four fourth- down conversions against the AFC's top scoring defense.
The 21-point comeback matched the largest deficit overcome in club history.
Colts 36, Dolphins 28 – November 26, 1995 –The teams moved on through the season and for this meeting the Colts were 6-5, while the Dolphins were 6-4 after their 4-0 start.
Looking to complete a season sweep of their AFC East rivals, the Colts started the home contest right where they left off from the previous meeting.
The Colts scored on their first four possessions and held on from there for a 36-28 victory at the RCA Dome.
Indianapolis took the opening kickoff and went 77 yards in nine plays as Harbaugh found Dawkins for a five-yard touchdown catch 6:11 into the game.
On the following possession, defensive end Tony Bennett had a sack-fumble of Miami quarterback Dan Marino. Linebacker Quentin Coryatt returned the loose ball to the Dolphins' 37-yard line.
Just three plays later, Harbaugh found Bailey for a 34-yard touchdown reception, pushing the lead to 14-0 just four minutes after the first score.
Next, the Colts defense forced a three-and-out to allow the offense to go back to work.
A nine-play, 69-yard drive stalled out in the red zone, but Blanchard booted a 29-yard field goal to give the Colts a 17-0 lead with 12:27 left in the half.
Another defensive stop followed and Harbaugh was not done with his spectacular start.
After a reverse by Bailey gained 34 yards to the Miami 15, Harbaugh threw his third touchdown pass of the half, this one to Faulk to extend the Colts' lead to 24-0 near the midway point of the quarter. The seven-yard touchdown pass to Faulk capped off a five-play, 49-yard drive for the Indianapolis offense.
The Dolphins got on the board late in the half as fullback Keith Byars scored on a six-yard touchdown pass from Marino, cutting the score to 24-7 at halftime. It marked the 343rd career scoring pass for Marino, eclipsing Fran Tarkenton's previous NFL record. Miami missed a two-point attempt.
Miami began a potential comeback effort of its own by driving 79 yards in 13 plays on the opening possession of the second half. Wide receiver O.J. McDuffie scoring on a five-yard Marino pass. Miami added a two-point conversion to cut the score to 24-14.
The Colts offense finally cooled down and had to punt on the following possession, giving the Dolphins the ball at their own 10-yard line with 2:39 left in the third quarter.
Leading by 10 points, the Colts defense helped cease any momentum as Bennett sacked Marino in the end zone for a safety.
Indianapolis took advantage of the safety by adding a Blanchard field goal on the next possession, pushing the lead to 29-14 with 14:27 remaining.
Marino would not go down easily as the Dolphins' offense answered with a 12-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a five-yard touchdown grab by wide receiver Irving Fryar. A two-point pass failed and the Colts led, 29-20.
With 8:42 remaining, the Colts took over and ate up a large portion of the clock. A 6:53 drive ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Harbaugh. It was a fourth-down sneak by Harbaugh, who barely extended the ball past the goal-line with 1:50 left.
The Dolphins added a final-minute touchdown on a 19-yard Marino-to-McDuffie connection with 17 seconds left. He returned to McDuffie on the two-point pass, but the Colts recovered the onside kick and Harbaugh took a knee to end an exciting game.
Faulk had 95 yards rushing, marking the third straight game he had achieved that total. The future Hall-of-Famer had 133 scrimmage yards.
Bennett led the defense with three sacks of Marino, and the sweep marked the first time since 1988 that Indianapolis won both season meetings with Miami.
Combining the final four drives of the first meeting and the four possessions to start the re-match, Harbaugh had a streak of leading the offense on eight straight scoring drives (six touchdowns and two field goals).
Indianapolis wound up finishing the season at 9-7, with a 10-7 victory over New England in the finale allowing the club to reach the playoffs. There, the Colts won on the road at defending AFC Champion San Diego, 35-20. Indianapolis beat the top-seeded Chiefs in Kansas City, 10-7, but fell in the AFC title game at Pittsburgh, 20-16.