Reggie Wayne danced in the end zone while Peyton Manning lovingly held the Lombardi trophy in his hands. No it wasn’t a nostalgic dream, it was the halftime show during the Colts 24-17 victory over the Titans on Sunday. As members of the 2006 Super Bowl Champion Colts team basked in the praise poured down onto them by adoring fans in Lucas Oil Stadium, it was impossible not to think about how different things are now.
On a day honoring a team from an era when the Colts rolled out of bed and won 12 games, the 2016 Colts found themselves fighting to get to .500 in a must-win game agains the Tennessee Titans. What a difference a decade makes.
With their playoff hopes on the line, the 2016 Colts put on a near perfect impersonation of the 2000’s teams that came before them, for 30 whole minutes.
Andrew Luck and the Colts offense came out firing on all cylinders. They repeatedly made the Titans look foolish, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions of a game for the first time since December 17, 2009 at Jacksonville. The first half saw Frank Gore pitch the ball to Luck who then returned the ball to Gore for a 49-yard completion. It saw T.Y. Hilton somehow snatch a sure interception from a defender and turn it into a touchdown. Luck completed 12-of-16 passes for 186 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 152.6 passer rating in the first half. It was his highest first half passer rating for his career. The offense converted three first downs of 10 or more yards in the first half. Even the defense got in on the party, holding the Titans to 16 first half rushing yards, including only 10 from DeMarco Murray.
Then, as they tend to do in Indianapolis these days, the wheels fell off. Tight end Dwayne Allen, who made a lot of money this offseason, added to his increasingly long list of bad drops. Adam Vinatieri, the man winning the fight with father time, saw his consecutive field goal streak end at 44. The defense forgot how to cover people. Tennessee scored late in the first half. At halftime a Colts team that’s become known for blowing leads jogged off the field as a team known for building them walked on.
The crumbling that began late in the second quarter became a total collapse in the third. Luck went 1-7 for 15 yards in third quarter. In the entire second half the Colts offense managed only three first downs and 77 yards. The defense, however, saved the day. They finished with a season high five sacks and made a crucial fourth down stop that provided the offense the chance to salt the game away.
Once again the Colts managed to do just enough to win. It wasn’t pretty, but the Colts are now 5-5 and within striking distance of an eminently beatable Texans team for first place in the division.
After the game, Luck had this to say about playing in front of the 2006 team, “You never want to go up and embarrass yourself in front of one of the all-time great Colts teams, so maybe there was a little edge from that matter.”
I can’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of Reggie, Peyton, Dallas, Jeff Saturday, and all of those Colts greats in attendance as they gazed down upon what the franchise they helped build has become.
Special Teams: A-