INDIANAPOLIS – In record-setting fashion, the Colts completed a perfect first two months of the 2007 season with a rousing 31-7 victory over the 4-2 Carolina Panthers on October 28, 2007 in Charlotte.
In earning a first-ever win over Carolina, Indianapolis also achieved a feat that had not been accomplished in league annals for more than three-quarters of a century. The Colts became the first team in 76 years to start three consecutive seasons with 7-0 records. With a 13-0 start in 2005 and a 9-0 start in 2006, the Colts tied the mark set by Green Bay from 1929-31 with their win over a talented Carolina team. The victory also yielded two additional significant milestones.
Indianapolis traveled to Carolina on a short week. The Colts had played at Jacksonville six days earlier, taking a 29-7 victory over the Jaguars on Monday Night Football. It would be a challenge to recover, travel and play a road date again so quickly.
Striking first in the opening quarter, the Panthers grinded out an 11-minute touchdown drive as running back DeShaun Foster scored on a three-yard run. The drive covered 80 yards in 18 plays and was 12 plays longer than any other drive Carolina would have over the next three quarters. The march included six third-down conversions in as many attempts, and the Colts' offense hit the field with 3:55 remaining in the opening quarter.
It would be the Colts special teams that would make a key play as the Indianapolis offense went three-and-out following the Foster touchdown. Linebacker Ramon Guzman fell on a Carolina fumble on the punt return. Indianapolis was in business at the Carolina 20-yard line.
Carolina's defense handled the adverse conditions and stiffened when the Colts gained a first-and-goal chance at the Panthers' five-yard line. Two rushes and a pass failed, and kicker Adam Vinatieri put the Colts on the board with a 20-yard field goal to complete the scoring in the first quarter.
The second quarter saw more ball control from the Panthers, but the Colts defense held firmly.
After Colts tight end Ben Utecht fumbled on a reception to give the Panthers the ball at the Colts' 28-yard line, the defense made a stand. On a third-and-four from the nine-yard line, safety Antoine Bethea intercepted Panthers quarterback Vinny Testaverde at the two-yard line.
The interception was part of an impressive day for the budding star in the secondary as Bethea had three pass deflections and five tackles to go along with the takeaway.
The teams traded punts on their next drives. Indianapolis could not move after the interception and punted, with Carolina gaining possession near mid-field. Indianapolis tightened again to get the ball back, and the offense took possession at its 14-yard line with 3:31 remaining in the half.
With one first down on its five previous possessions, the offense needed to get on track. The talented unit was able to do so in typical fashion. Covering 86 yards in less than two minutes, the Colts had grabbed the lead. Running back Joseph Addai scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left in the half for a halftime score that would hold at 10-7. Manning hit a 16-yard completion to wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez early in the march. Back-to-back completions of 23 and 32 yards from Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne moved the ball from the Colts' 39-yard to the Carolina six-yard line. Addai punched on the ground for four yards just prior to his scoring burst. The Panthers did not capitalize during the 1:33 remaining on the clock and the Colts led at the break.
The Colts had a three-point lead despite having the ball for less than eight minutes in the entire first half. The half-ending drive for Indianapolis trimmed the Panthers' lead in net yards to 150-127. Carolina snapped 41 first-half plays, but momentum had swung to the Colts.
The momentum to end the first half carried over to the opening possession of the third quarter. Manning led the Colts on another eight-play scoring drive, this time covering 60 yards. The payoff was a four-yard pass from Manning-to-Addai just 2:49 into the period. Indianapolis had tallied 17 points with less than 11 minutes possession time.
The Colts' next possession took only 1:14 off the clock before a punt. Back on the field again, the Indianapolis defense continued to hold Carolina in check. The Panthers were forced to punt on a second straight possession in the third quarter.
Indianapolis took over at its 30-yard line with 5:33 to go in the quarter. This drive consumed only 46 seconds. It took but two plays – both Manning-to-Wayne passes. The first one covered 11 yards. The second gained 59 yards and counted for six points as a streaking Wayne got behind the coverage. Manning hit him in stride on an electrifying pitch-and-catch. Indianapolis now led, 24-7.
Any late game heroics from the Panthers would be thwarted quickly by the Colts. On their next drive, Indianapolis struck again. Addai scored his third touchdown of the afternoon on a 12-yard run to close out the 11-play, 55-yard drive and the scoring at 31-7.
The Colts defense would put a final imprint on an impressive performance on the next drive as cornerback Tim Jennings forced a fumble by Panthers tight end Jeff King that was recovered by cornerback Kelvin Hayden. The Colts drained almost seven minutes off the clock following the takeaway, and Carolina was not able to muster anything further. The Colts had posted their 21st consecutive pre-November regular-season victory that dated back to the 2004 season.
Addai's impressive afternoon included 23 rushes for 100 yards and two touchdowns, while he had two receptions for nine yards and a score. Wayne caught seven passes for 168 yards and a touchdown.
Manning's two touchdown passes gave him 288 for his career, a total that broke the franchise record held by Hall-of-Famer John Unitas. The 287 career touchdowns by Unitas stood as the team standard since 1972. The 59-yard pass from Manning-to-Wayne set the new mark in style.
That was not the only record set with the victory over Carolina. Head Coach Tony Dungy posted his 74th victory as the club's head coach. Dungy moved past Ted Marchibroda and Don Shula as the winningest field leader in Colts history. Dungy went on to earn an overall record of 92-33 as the Indianapolis head coach.