Friday, November 3, 2006

What could be more fun that another Pats-Colts game?

Everyone this week is talking about this Sunday's huge game between the Patriots and the Colts. But instead of looking ahead, I'm going to take a few moments to look back at some memorable Colts-Patriots matchups.

Oh sure, the recent success against the Colts--especially in the playoffs--has been fantastic and memorable. But those aren't the games I'm talking about. I'm talking about many of the other games that the teams have played over the last 22 seasons.

You see, my brother Scott is a rabid Colts fan. I won't go into the whats and wherefores about how a kid from Leominster becomes a Colts fan; he just is, and always has been. Since 1985, The Colts and Patriots have played in Foxboro 21 times. Scott and I have attended 20 of them together. We also saw a Pats-Colts game in Indianapolis about a dozen years ago.

In those games, the Patriots are 17-4.

Here is a rundown of some of the games that I remember fondly. I'm guessing Scott's recollections aren't quite the same:

2001: Many Patriots fans remember this game as Tom Brady's first start. I fondly remember it for other reasons. Scott wore both his Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James jerseys to the game, with the plan of standing and cheering with the James jersey on if the Colts scored on the ground. If the Colts scored via the pass, he would rip the James jersey off and show his Manning jersey to the crowd (he could get away with this because we sat with a group of people who generally pitied him, and treated him well despite his affiliation).

True to his word, when the Colts scored their first touchdown on a Manning pass, Scott tore off his shirt to reveal the Manning jersey, preening and cheering as he did. The Colts were trailing 37-0 at the time. Three weeks later the Patriots added another new way to win, when David Patten ran, passed, and caught touchdowns for the first time since Walter Payton in the 1970s.

1999: An all-time classic Scott moment. The Colts go into halftime leading 28-7. Then Edgerrin James fumbles away one drive...and Marcus Pollard fumbles away another one...and Jim Mora gets conservative...and the Patriots come back to win 31-28, prompting an all-time great Scott blowup. After watching some version of the Colts collapse nearly every year for, 15 years, he finally has had enough. Following the game, he marches over to the runway where the Colts were leaving the field, hurls a long string of insults and other bits of, er, advice, and then rips the Colts jersey off his back and throws it back to the team. He vows not to wear another piece of Colts clothing until the Colts beat the Patriots again. Luckily, Indy holds on in the second meeting of the season, and Scott is able to pull out the paraphernalia once again.

2003: The Patriots beat the Colts 24-14 to win the AFC title in a steady snow. Among the ways the Patriots score is a safety when the snap is over the punter's head and out the back of the end zone. The play is ironic since the Colts had not been punted in their two preceding playoff games and did not punt on their first try in this game either. Of course the game was in Foxboro because the Patriots had won in Indy on a kickoff return with no time left in the first half, and the Colts inability to score on four tries from the one yard line at the end of the game.

2004: Two games in Foxboro. In the season opener, the Colts manage to lose as Edgerrin James fumbles on the goal line late in the fourth quarter on a drive that would have given the Colts the lead, and then Mike Vanderjagt misses a game-tying kick as time expires after taunting the Patriots by making the "money" sign at the Pats bench before the miss. When they meet again in the playoffs, the Patriots hold the mighty Colts to just three points.

1988: This was the first time that Scott started to get the idea that it's always going to be something. The Colts take a 17-14 lead late into the fourth quarter when Patriots' quarterback Tom Ramsey is replaced by Doug Flutie. Flutie marches the Patriots down the field and scores on a naked bootleg in the final 15 seconds to give the Patriots a 21-17 win. It is the only rushing touchdown of Flutie's Patriots career. It is the only win for the Pats in a five game stretch that includes losses of 36-6, 31-6, and 45-3.

1991: The Patriots score on the last play of regulation to tie the game at 17-17, then wins in overtime with a 60+ yard pass play from Hugh Millen to Michael Timpson. Scott, who I'm sure was standing right next to me as the ball was snapped, vanished before Timpson scored his touchdown.

1994: Our only trip to Indianapolis and another new way for the Colts to lose. The Patriots fail to score a touchdown, but win as the fourth Matt Bahr field goal clanks off the upright and flops over the crossbar with only two minutes left to play.

1987: The Patriots block a Rohn Stark punt on their way to a 24-0 December victory. Scott leaves after three quarters, citing the frigid conditions. It won't be the last time he leaves before the final gun sounds.

1985: Irving Fryar's punt return touchdown keys a 34-15 Patriot win on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance. The Colts have yet to appear in a Super Bowl since moving to Indianapolis in 1984, a 22 year drought.

1986: The Patriots raise the AFC Championship flag (trust me, it was a big deal at the time) as they open the season with a 33-3 win over the Colts. The kid sitting behind us got drunk for the first time and puked all over himself and the walkway between our rows.

There were a couple of memorable Colts wins too...

1990: Scott finally gets to see the Colts win, 13-10, avenging an earlier loss in Indy. The loss in Indy will end up being the Patriots only win of the season.

1992: We had a Northeaster the night before this game, and there was eight inches of snow in the stands that the team was unable to clear. As often happens after a Northeaster, the wind was howling out of the North at over 30 miles per hour, which made not only for an uncomfortable fan experience, but made it nearly impossible to kick or throw. The Colts executed a two-yard punt into the wind, and that wasn't even the worst kick of the day. Patriots kicker Charlie Baumann lined up for a 38-yard FG into the wind and it came up about 10 yards short. The Colts won 6-0, including a 50-yard FG with the wind at his back that Dean Biasucci only got about 15 feet off the ground.

2005: Finally Peyton Manning's Colts win at Foxboro, and Scott can't relax. He's so used to the Patriots finding a new and often odd way to win, that he refuses to believe that the Colts are going to win. Even after I've told him that the Patriots were cooked and many of the fans have left, he refuses to accept the result. It's too bad really. You'd think he could enjoy the win just a little.

So let's take a look at how the Patriots have managed to win over the years: a punt return, a blocked punt, a last second TD run by a local hero, field goals that ricochet off the uprights, an overtime thriller, a 21-point second half comeback, a TD pass run and catch by the same player, a kickoff return and four misses from the one-yard line, a missed FG by the most accurate kicker in history, and a punt snapped out of the end zone for a safety.

Can't wait to see what's next...

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