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Turning Back the Clock: The 2006-07 AFCCG Diary

Hello, Colts fans. This Saturday, January 21st, marks the 10th anniversary of a game many of us will never forget. For the Colts, it was a chance for redemption against a team who had knocked them out of the playoffs twice in the previous three seasons. For the Patriots, it was a chance to get back to the Super Bowl and wash away the aftertaste of a failed title defense in 2005. It was the perfect time for them to meet again. We’ve all had moments in our lives – not necessarily sports related – where we know we’re in the middle of the perfect storm; that moment when something special is happening. I think that is the best way to describe the whole atmosphere around this game, be it pregame, in game, or post game.

Funny thing is, it could’ve easily never happened.

In the divisional round, the third seeded Colts needed every single one of Adam Vinatieri’s then playoff record five field goals to topple second seeded Baltimore 15-6, and a Nate Kaeding missed field goal at the end allowed the Patriots to escape with a 24-21 win at top seeded San Diego. The Chargers were two minutes away from hosting the AFCCG and couldn’t close the deal. For this I am eternally thankful.

As we take this journey together, know upfront that this will be a long piece. In order to be appreciated, it is something you’ll need to close yourself off from the rest of the world when you read it. If you’re a speed reader, slow down. If you’re like many of us – including myself at times – who want instant gratification and wanted it 10 minutes ago, take a deep breath and focus. Use your imagination and remember it: The Patriots in their (ugly) road whites, the Colts in their home blues, a raucous crowd. A youthful looking Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, both with not only many glorious victories and crushing defeats in front of them, but also injuries. Younger looking versions of Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy, ready to fight another battle of strategy.

Can you see them? When you can, you’re ready for this.

Note that this is a mix of past and present, as it’s tough to report a game you know the result of, but I hope you find it works. Also, the spot of the ball and yardage to go are subjective, as there are many, many instances where the call in the booth by Jim Nantz, the yards to go graphic by CBS, and the spot of the ball on the field don’t jive.

Let’s do this…

Introduction:

The very first thing Jim Nantz says: “Welcome to Indianapolis. Tom Brady and the Patriots, they’ve been here before. The Colts? They haven’t, not for 36 years.” Thanks Jim. I’m feeling better already.

1st Quarter:

NE 15:00

New England has first possession. Ellis Hobbs returns the kick nearly 30 yards to the 24, where he’s tackled by….Marlin Jackson. An omen?

3/7/27: After a couple of plays gain nothing, the Patriots spread the field and Brady lines up in the shot gun with Kevin Faulk as a single back behind him. The play is a draw to Faulk, who gains an easy 8 yards. About a month earlier, the Jags used this same play to great effectiveness when they torched the Colts for 375 rushing yards.

3/8/35: The Colts’ defense stiffens. Robert Mathis almost gets Brady on this play, and helps force an incompletion. Brady’s 0-3 now. He looks skittish. This is a good start.

IND 12:26

Nantz points out that despite the 12-4 record, only Richard Seymour was named to the Pro Bowl from the Patriots. This is still back in a time where making the Pro Bowl mattered a little bit, and the game – while not taken seriously – didn’t necessarily end up with things like the 12th best TE in the AFC playing because no one else wanted to. Fun fact: The 2006 Patriots defense gave up 237 points, which still stands as their best under Bill Belichick.

The Colts’ possession fails, as Manning just misses an open Joseph Addai along the right sideline on 3rd down. Addai had Tedy Bruschi beat, and a catch would’ve meant a big gain, if not a touchdown. Manning is upset, because he knows they let one get away.

NE 11:00

1/10/25: Brady makes a quick throw to Reche Caldwell, who takes it for 18 yards after Nick Harper whiffs badly on the tackle attempt. If you ever wondered then why Dungy almost always had his CB’s playing off the line, this play is Exhibit A. When he dies, Dungy’s stone should read “Won a Super Bowl with Nick Harper and Jason David as his starting corners.”

1/10/43: Laurence Maroney checks into the game for the first time, immediately gets a carry, and is immediately destroyed by Booger McFarland. I could’ve skipped over mentioning this play, but it was my only chance to say “Booger,” and you just can’t pass that up.

3/9/44: Brady goes out of the gun again with Faulk next to him. Think it might be a draw? The Colts don’t, but it is, and Faulk takes it just to the marker. As Phil Simms extols the virtues of New England’s blocking, the camera shows Ben Watson clearly holding Dwight Freeney as Faulk runs by.

4th/inches/IND 48: After a measurement shows Faulk is a chain link short, Belichick doesn’t hesitate to go for it. It works. Easily. The Colts crowd the line, expecting one of Brady’s patented sneaks, but instead it’s a give to Corey Dillon. Dillon busts through the line like a runaway truck, taking it 35 yards. The only reason he doesn’t score is because he’s no longer the younger Corey Dillon who played in Cincinnati.

3/1/IND 4: A 9 yard run by Maroney on first down, and good defense by the Colts on a second down sneak attempt by Brady set up this play. Brady attempts to give the ball to Maroney going right, but Maroney never has it. Fumble!!!! There’s a brief scramble for the ball, and then….what in the hell is this? Some bearded, beastly looking fellow named Logan Mankins has the ball. In the end zone. Touchdown. Nick Harper, Rocky Boiman, and Bob Sanders all whiffed on the fumble recovery for the Colts. Terrible luck.

NE 7, IND 0

IND 7:24

The Colts begin on their 20 after the kick off.

2/10/36: Indy shows a different look to the Patriots, with TE’s Dallas Clark and Ben Utecht lined up in the slot. The play is a quick screen to Reggie Wayne, who takes it 13 yards and comes awfully close to breaking it for an easy touchdown. One guy left to beat and he was off to the races.

2/7/NE 48: Manning decides to test Asante Samuel on a deep pass to Marvin Harrison, and…..almost. Samuel shows why he’s one of the best DB’s in the game, making a terrific play on the ball. By my unofficial count, this is the third “almost” play the Colts have had. Frustrating.

Completions to Clark and Utecht sandwiched around a 4 yard run by Addai set up the next play…

3/1/NE 27: The Colts try Addai up the middle, but Vince Wilfork will have none of it, and makes a nice stop. As much as I hate to say it, the Patriots get screwed by a bad spot here, and the Colts get a first down. Jim Nantz mentions this is the fourth measurement of the game,  and there’s still 3 minutes left in the first quarter. Phil Simms launches into a monologue about how Dungy had Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, and Mike Tomlin all on his Tampa Bay staff at the same time. This is false, as Edwards and Smith were both gone when Tomlin came aboard in 2001.

1/10/NE 26: Addai makes a nice 5 yard run to the right, but…..holding on Ryan Diem negates the play. I only mention this play to show there’s truly a connection between the 2006 Colts and their 2016 counterparts.

1/20/NE 36: Manning has Reggie Wayne open in the back of the end zone, but a tremendous play by Ellis Hobbs breaks it up. It’s a great play call and a great throw by Manning, but a greater play by Hobbs. Another “almost.” That’s 4.

4/8/NE 24: After the Hobbs play, the Colts go conservative, and settle for a field goal by Adam Vinatieri. The kick is Vinny’s 9th field goal of this post season, which ties an NFL record. It also makes him 26 for 26 in his career at the RCA Dome.

NE 7, IND 3

NE 0:41

1/10/28: The nearly 7 minute drive by the Colts has reinvigorated the crowd, and the place is electric. They’re so electric Brady slaps the butt of his center to take the snap on this play, which results in a 2 yard run by Dillon. I only mention this because I wanted to laugh at Brady for being a butt slapper.

End of 1st quarter

NE 15:00

3/1/37: Brady calls his own number for the second time, and takes it for the first down. Phil Simms explains how Brady is a game manager because of his play calls, his sneaks, and his fakes. Funny. In 2017 people refer to someone like Alex Smith as a game manager, and it’s considered a derogatory term. Folks, your Peyton, your Brady, your Rodgers, whoever…they’re all successful because they’re game managers.

2/5/IND 46: Maroney is back in the game, immediately gets the ball, and immediately gets an easy first down after Marlin Jackson misses the tackle. The Patriots are up to 84 yards rushing now with still 13 minutes to go in the half. Yikes.

3/11/IND 39: Brady throws a screen to Faulk, who appears to have a chance for a first down and then boom, Kelvin Hayden knocks the tar out of him. Nice hit.

4/6/IND 34: Say whatever about Bill Belichick, but he’s not here today to lose. The Patriots go for it here (Chuck Pagano, I hope you read this). The Colts press the receivers, but Jason David gets no bump at all on Troy Brown, who takes Brady’s pass for 27 yards. Awful, awful defense. “Here lies Tony Dungy. He won a Super Bowl with Nick Harper and Jason David as his starting corners.”

1/Goal/IND 7: The give is to Dillon off the left side, he jukes Jason David out of his cleats, and walks into the end zone. Jim Nantz: “He would have been in if it was flag football.” Oof.

NE 14, IND 3

Terrance Wilkins returns the kick off. He fumbles, but is down. Officials miss a clear face mask, which would’ve been of the 15 yard variety.

IND 10:08

2/7/31: Want another connection to our current Colts? Here you go: Manning stares down Harrison, and Samuel jumps the route for an easy pick 6. That’s right, kids. Peyton Manning sometimes made bad throws too. At this point during the post season, Manning has 1 TD pass and 6 INT’s. The crowd is quiet and thinking what we all are: Here we go again.

NE 21, IND 3

IND 9:20

This series is also current Colts-like:

1/10/17: Manning is flushed out of the pocket right and tripped up for a sack that loses a yard.

2/11/16: Manning is sacked by Roosevelt Colvin for a loss of 11.

3/22/5: Manning gets called for a delay of game penalty. This is fun!

3/24/3: Manning is hit as he throws deep to Harrison, who just misses making what would have been a spectacular catch. Time to punt.

Hunter Smith makes a nice kick, but is kicking from the back of the end zone, which means the Patriots will be set up with great field position.

NE 7:33

1/10/IND 48: Bob Sanders finally makes his appearance felt, as he blows up a run by Maroney for a loss of 3. The camera pans to the Kraft family sitting in their box, and Phil Simms is kind enough to point out this is the 13th anniversary of when they purchased the team. Thanks, Phil. My life is complete now.

3/8/IND 46: Brady fires a 14 yard laser to Ben Watson for the first down. Terrific throw.

3/6/IND 28: Brady again hits Watson, this time for 9, but there’s a flag. It’s offensive pass interference against Troy Brown. It’s the first penalty against the Patriots, and what a time for it. Brady is mad. I watched this play a couple of times, and while I think the officials probably got it right, if the situation were reversed I probably wouldn’t be happy.

3/16/38: Fan favorite Heath Evans takes it for 4 yards here, but there’s another flag. Illegal motion against Watson.

3/21/43: Dwight Freeney blows this one up, Brady gives up, and Raheem Brock gets credited with a sack. A huge, huge, stop for the defense, and the crowd is feeling it again.

IND 3:06

1/10/12: Again under pressure, Manning rolls right and throws incomplete to Clark. He’s hit as he throws.

2/10/12: Colts go back to the run game, and Addai tries the left side for no gain.

Let’s recap their last seven plays:

Pick 6. Sack. Sack. Delay of game penalty. Pressure forcing incompletion. Pressure forcing incompletion. Run for no gain.

CBS is nice enough to show this stat: In their last three post season games against the Patriots, the Colts have 25 had drives. These have resulted in 1 TD and 9 turnovers. Ouch.

We’ve hit rock bottom here, folks.

3/10/12: Who else but Reggie Wayne? He grabs Manning’s pass for an 18 yard gain.

1/10/30: Manning finds Harrison for a 13 yard gain.

1/10/43: Aaron Moorehead grabs a pass and gains 10. Three straight throws, three straight first downs. The previously dormant offense appears to have awakened.

3/10/NE 29: Look, it’s a Dominic Rhodes sighting! He takes Manning’s pass for 11 yards and a first down before getting thumped by Eric Alexander. Huge first down.

1/10/NE 18: Dallas Clark takes a pass over the middle for 12 yards to the 6. Alexander again makes the tackle, his 5th of this drive. The Colts call their first time out with 24 seconds remaining.

1/goal/NE 6: Rhodes tries the middle, but Wilfork and Mike Vrabel won’t have it. Loss of two, and the Colts are forced to use another time out.

2/goal/NE 8: Manning tries to hit Dallas Clark in the end zone. It’s ruled incomplete, but James Sanders got away with one there. Should have been pass interference.

3/goal/NE 8: The Colts try a fade to Reggie Wayne…it’s incomplete, but it sure looks like pass interference. No flag. The crowd is unhappy. Dungy is unhappy, so much so that he calls his final time out just to talk to the official about it. At full speed, it looks like he’s got a legitimate complaint. The replay shows Wayne tripped over his own feet. Good call. During the time out, Manning appears to lobby for going for it on 4th down, but he loses.

4/goal/NE 8: Vinny bangs home the 26 yard field goal. It’s his 10th, which gives him the all-time post season record. A first and goal from the 6 without a touchdown isn’t ideal, but the three points here are crucial. And the Colts get the ball to start the 2nd half.

On his way to the locker room, Dungy continues his discussion with the official.

Halftime: NE 21, IND 6

 

IND 15:00

Terrence Wilkins makes a nice return on the kick off, then is promptly blown up by Larry Izzo. Nice tackle, and another example of why Izzo is a perennial Pro Bowl selection.

The Colts throw a switch here, starting Dominic Rhodes at RB. Other than an 11 yard reception on the last drive of the half, he’s been a non-factor. That’s about to change.

3/1/33: Harrison makes an 8 yard grab on 2nd down, but a bad spot leaves the Colts inches shy of the first down. Rhodes makes his presence felt on this play, busting off a 4 yard run.

1/10/37: The Colts go right back to Rhodes, and he delivers again with a nice 10 yard gain. Tarik Glenn springs him with a terrific block.

2/8/49: After another Rhodes run nets 2, Manning works a beautiful play action and hits Harrison for 13 yards

2/5/33: Wayne is open on a slant route that would be a first down, but Ellis Hobbs makes another tremendous play and knocks it out. Hobbs has been a pain in the rear so far today.

3/5/33: It’s 3rd down, so you know what this means, right? That’s right, it’s Wayne. Manning recognizes right away that Tedy Bruschi is trying to cover Wayne, and it’s no contest. Phil Simms: “New England had the perfect defense on.” Whatever, Phil.

1/goal/9: Completions to Rhodes and Moorehead move the ball inside the 10. On this play Addai takes it straight up the middle for 4 more.

2/goal/5: Manning comes right back to the same play, and Addai gains 4 more down to the 1 yard line. Jeff Saturday creates the hole for Addai by totally sealing off his guy. Great block.

3/goal/1: The Colts line up quick, then Manning takes it himself…touchdown! Jim Nantz points out that after going 2003-2005 without a rushing TD, this is Manning’s 6th of 2006. It caps off a nearly 7 minute long drive. The woes of the first half seem over. The crowd is going bananas.

NE 21, IND 13

The crowd goes even crazier on the ensuing kick off, when Darrell Reid destroys Maroney.

Nantz: “This place is charged.”

NE 8:09

1/10/18: Brady has nowhere to throw it, so he throws it out of bounds directly into the hands of Robert Mathis. It’s not worth mentioning other than Mathis made a really nice catch.

2/10/18: Brady out of the gun again, with Faulk next to him. Think it’s a draw? It is, but this time Brady fakes a throw first. It’s just enough to throw off Freeney, who nearly nails Faulk for a 3-4 yard loss. Gain of 8.

3/2/26: The crowd is roaring. The Colts pressure Brady, but he gets away and hits fan favorite Heath Evans. It looks like a sure first down, but Jason David and Antoine Bethea meet at the ball and stop Evans dead in his tracks. The Patriots have to punt. You can imagine how the crowd sounds right now.

After their defense was on the field for nearly 7 minutes, the Patriots’ barely held the ball for a minute on that drive.

IND 6:50

1/10/24: The Patriots are tired, Dominic Rhodes is not, and Manning uses this to his advantage here with a beautiful rainbow to Dallas Clark off a play action fake. Gain of 25. A perfect throw.

1/10/49: This time Manning gives the ball to Rhodes, and he breaks it off right tackle for 19 big yards. Everyone wearing blue who blocked on this play did their job and then some. Easiest run of the day for the Colts.

1/10/NE 32: Harrison is open over the middle, the pass is right on target, and….Darius Heyward-Harrison. You won’t see Marvin Harrison drop many, but this one was bad. It happens, even to the best.

2/10/NE 32: Rhodes runs off right tackle again and picks up 5. Rhodes had 1 yard on 2 carries at halftime. He’s now up to 9 carries and 48 yards. Sideline reporter Solomon Wilcots notes Roosevelt Colvin is on the sidelines due to cramps, and Simms says “it is hot in here.” Aww, poor babies.

3/5/NE 27: Vintage Manning strikes, as his hard count forces Richard Seymour into a neutral zone infraction. First down. Jim Nantz notes that since 3 minutes remained in the 2nd quarter, the time of possession has been Colts 11:45, Patriots 1:30. This is good.

2/7/NE 19: Manning throws a deep corner to Wayne. It doesn’t have a chance, as Hobbs commits pass interference by never turning around to defend the pass. Easy call.

1/goal/NE 1: It’s a quick play action to the right and Manning hits…Dan Klecko for the touchdown? Dan Klecko, a defensive lineman by trade and occasional fullback. It’s a play straight out of the Patriots’ playbook, and Klecko even finishes it with a “Gronk spike.” Two linemen have now scored TD’s. This game is officially crazy.

Prior to the play, Nantz: “Assuming they get the 1 yard here, do you go for 2 and the tie?” Simms: “No. The reason you don’t Jim, is because if you don’t make it, it’s 21-19, and if New England scores another touchdown it makes it a 2 possession game.” Technically he’s right, but Phil, just shut up.

The Colts eschew Simms’ sage advice, and go for 2. Manning steps right, fires a rocket to Harrison, it’s good! It’s the first 2 point conversion the Colts have made all season. And what a time for it.

Nantz: “An incredible comeback.”

Care to guess how the crowd is right now?

NE 21, IND 21

Their euphoria is short lived, however, as Hobbs returns the kick 80 yards to the Colts’ 21. Damn this guy. Matt Giordano saves the TD.

NE 3:49

2/11/IND 22: Brady hits Jabar Gaffney over the middle for an easy 17 yard play. No one even covered him.

1/goal/IND 5: The Patriots call the same play to Dillon he scored easily on in the first half, but this time he’s dropped for a loss by Rob Morris. Simms touts the Colts’ run defense without mentioning the return of Bob Sanders, and then Nantz counters by pointing out the team gave up 100+ rushing yards in every game this season, marking the first time this has happened in 22 years.

2/goal/IND 6: Brady rolls right, and in doing so causes Kelvin Hayden to hesitate. This hesitation leaves Reche Caldwell wide open in the end zone. The pass is on target and…Darius Heyward-Caldwell. Huge, huge, huge break for the Colts. Whew.

3/goal/IND 6: Brady rolls right again, but this time there’s pressure. Just as he’s hit, he lofts one high to the very back of the end zone. Gaffney is there, he’s got it, and he’s pushed out. The official immediately rules it a TD. The crowd is unhappy. Tony Dungy is unhappy, and after watching a replay, throws the challenge flag.

After multiple replays, it appears to be the correct call. It doesn’t look like Gaffney ever stepped out, either prior to the catch or when he went up for it. It’s close though.

A couple of notes here: In today’s NFL, this never happens. A couple of years after this game, the NFL instituted a “push out” rule. This means if the defender pushes an airborne player out of bounds, the pass will be ruled incomplete. This is exactly what happened on this play. Another thing is, if we assume the push out wasn’t initially ruled and it was a TD, Dungy would not have challenged the play because he couldn’t have. We would assume the automatic review after every TD now would’ve overturned this.

NE 28, IND 21

IND 1:18

The kick off is short and is fielded by Charlie Johnson, who inexplicably tries to return it. Charlie, you’re an offensive lineman, there is no explanation to justify you trying to return this kick. Johnson makes it a couple of yards before he’s hit hard and fumbles…out of bounds, fortunately. If I’m Dungy, I immediately look for Johnson to ask what the hell he was thinking. If I’m Johnson, I realize Dungy is probably going to want to know what the hell I was thinking, so I try to stay as far away from him as possible.

1/10/NE 44: Manning hits Rhodes twice for a total of 23 yards, then goes back to him again here. Rhodes is feeling it, and he takes this carry for 9 more. Rhodes is up to 83 total yards now.

End of quarter

NE 28, IND 21

 

Colts 15:00

1/10/NE 32: Clark runs a deep route to the left sideline, and Manning hits him for a 23 yard gain. It’s a beautiful pass, a beautiful over the shoulder catch, and a beautiful job by Clark to tap his toes before going out. Just a gorgeous play.

2/goal/NE 5: After a 4 yard gain by Rhodes, Vintage Manning strikes again. Another hard count, another neutral zone infraction that moves the ball to the 2 and a half.

2/goal/NE 2: I’ll just leave this here. Note that since it’s NFL material, you may be required to watch it in another window rather than directly on screen here.

Are you serious? Jeff Saturday, the hero. This is now three linemen who have scored offensive TD’s in this game. Incredible. What are the odds of this happening again?

I’m beside myself.

NE 28, IND 28

NE 13:18

The Colts achieve a victory of sorts on the kick off, as Hobbs is only able to return it out to the 27.

2/6/31: Laurence Maroney, meet Dwight Freeney. There’s nowhere to go, son. Loss of 2. Brady looks forlorn.

3/8/29: This time Brady throws to Maroney, and he’s stopped a couple of yards shy of the first by Raheem Brock and Robert Mathis. Uh oh, New England. It’s time to punt again. But wait…Bob Sanders stays down on the field holding his knee. This is not good.

IND 11:06

After the commercial break, CBS shows replay of Sanders walking off under his own power. Whew.

1/10/22: Manning looks for Wayne and it goes nowhere because Wayne trips himself again. Twice now. Reggie, what the heck?

2/10/22: It’s another pass, but as Manning drops back he’s tripped by Addai. Easy sack, and a loss of 7. Gentlemen, this is a chance to seize control of this game and everyone wants to fall down instead.

3/17/15: Wayne is open, but Manning is under some pressure and the throw sails high. Time to punt. So much for prosperity.

NE 10:26

Hunter Smith booms a deep punt, but since he’s back near the goal line, the Patriots are going to get good field position. Brown returns the kick 15 yards, but there’s more. A personal foul face mask penalty on Dexter Reid sets the Patriots up quite nicely at the Colt’s 43.

Brady immediately goes to work, hitting Caldwell for 16 and Gaffney for 14. Just like that, the ball is at the Colts’ 13.

After the catch by Caldwell, CBS shows replay of the Colts’ last play, where Manning threw high to Wayne. It seems his throwing hand hit Tarik Glenn on the follow through. This is a common cause of a broken hand for a QB. The camera cuts to Manning on the sideline looking at backup QB Jim Sorgi and saying “get ready.”

Oh no. No. Noooooo. Someone hold me.

1/15/IND 18: After an illegal shift penalty against Gaffney, the Patriots line up again. Caldwell is wide to the right and there’s literally no one covering him. No one. Not even the peanut vendor. Caldwell’s waving his hands. The entire Patriots sideline is waving their hands, trying to get Brady to see what’s going on. Brady finally sees it, and throws the ball right to Caldwell, and….Darius Heyward-Caldwell.

Wow.

rcaldwell2

I mean…Antoine Bethea did finally hustle over there as the play started, and the gain was probably going to be fairly minimal, but still. What an inexcusable drop.

3/7/IND 10: Brady doesn’t let Caldwell’s two huge drops affect him. He targets him again in the end zone, but the play is broken up by Hayden. It’s a gift for the Colts, as it looks pretty clear that Hayden interfered on the play.

4/7/IND 10: Gostkowski hits the field goal, and the Patriots lead yet again.

NE 31, IND 28

IND 7:25

1/10/23: Clark runs another deep route over the middle, Manning steps up to avoid the pressure and drops a dime right into Clark’s hands. It’s a 52 yard gain. Let’s go. It looks like his hand is fine, folks.

3/5/NE 20: On 2nd down, Hobbs – damn you, Ellis – breaks up another would be completion to Wayne, and the Colts go conservative. Rhodes tries the left side but only gains two here. Conservative call. Vinny trots out for the 36 yard field goal, which of course is money. We’re tied again.

NE 31, IND 31

Damn you, damn you, damn you to hell forever, Ellis Hobbs. He returns the kick off 41 yards to the Patriots’ 46.

1/10/46: Brady hits a wide open Daniel Graham for 25 yards. Nantz: “This is what Brady lives for.” Shut up, Jim.

1/10/IND 29: The Colts catch a break when Brady makes a bad throw and misses Gaffney in the end zone.

2/10/IND 29: Bethea makes a good play to break up a pass intended for Graham.

3/10/IND 29: It’s 3rd down. Brady’s in the gun with fan favorite Heath Evans next to him. Think it might be a draw? It is, but this time the Colts are ready, and limit Evans to a 4 yard gain. Nantz questions the conservative play call, and Simms replies with “the call does not upset me at all.” Me neither, Phil.

After Gostkowski nails the 43 yard field goal, the camera cuts to Corey Dillon on the sidelines. He raises his fist, then puts his hand in his face like he just can’t take it anymore. We’re right there with you, Corey.

Nantz notes the game has been tied 3 times now, and each time New England has regained the lead. Thanks, Jim.

NE 34, IND 31

IND 3:49

1/10/20: Manning throws it at the feet of Clark. Not sure what this is about.

2/10/20: The Patriots bring heavy pressure, and Manning has to throw it away.

3/10/20: Manning has Moorehead open to the left, but Ray Mickens makes a great play and knocks the pass down. Time to punt. This was not a good response drive, fellas.

NE 3:22

As the Patriots take the field, the stadium PA is playing Europe’s “Final Countdown.” Indeed it is. Nantz is kind enough to remind us that Brady has a 12-1 record in the playoffs, including an 8-0 mark in games decided by 7 points or less. Shut up, Jim.

1/10/40: The Patriots are huddled up, but wait, there’s a flag. Fan favorite Heath Evans was in the huddle and then tried to run off the field. Too many men in the huddle. If you’ve wondered why I’ve been calling him “fan favorite Heath Evans,” now you know why. Completely inexcusable penalty, but one I’m not going to complain about.

To this day, if you ask Tony Dungy what the biggest play of this game was, he will tell you it was this penalty.

2/8/42: Following a 7 yard completion to Caldwell, Brady hits Watson for a 4 yard gain, and the Colts call their 2nd time out with 2:30 remaining.

3/4/46: Brady fakes left and throws right to an open Troy Brown. He also throws it right to Bob Sanders, who jumps the route…but drops it. Right in the hands. Sanders was *this* close to scoring a TD that might’ve made the RCA Dome implode from excitement. So close. At least the Patriots will have to punt.

IND 2:17

1/10/20: Under pressure, Manning fires an 11 yard strike to Wayne, who beats Hobbs on the catch. Suck on that one, Ellis.

1/10/31: Pressured again, Manning throws incomplete to TE Bryan Fletcher. It’s the first time I recall hearing Fletcher’s name the entire day.

2/10/31: Like a broken record, Manning is pressured again on this play, but backpedals and throws a dime right into Fletcher’s hands. It’s a 32 yard gain to the Patriots’ 37. What a throw, and what a time for Fletcher to show up in this game.

1/10/NE 37: Manning finds Wayne on a crossing route. He’s down near the 20, wait, the ball pops up into the air…nooo…wait, he’s got it again. Whew. I think my heart just stopped.

Lost in the chaos of the broadcasters, the crowd, and our stopped hearts, is a flag on the field. Seems Tully Banta-Cain hit Manning just a little bit too late on the throw. Roughing the passer. Let’s tack on 15 more yards.

Asante Samuel’s reaction after Wayne came back down with the ball pretty much sums up how everyone is feeling right now. He grabbed his head with both hands.

2/goal/NE 6: After Addai gains 5 on first down, the Colts go back to him again here. He takes it 3 yards up the middle. New England calls their first time out with 1:02 left.

3/goal/NE 3:

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** FOR USE WITH YEAR END AS DESIRED--FILE ** Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) celebrates running back Joseph Addai's three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship football game against the New England Patriots in this Jan. 21, 2007, file photo in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, file)

You know what just happened. The pictures say it all. Colts lead!

This. Place. Is. LOUD.

IND 38, NE 34

NE 0:54

As loud as this crowd is, Brady is probably going to have to resort to butt slapping his center again.

1/10/21: Brady throws nowhere near Caldwell. Looks like a miscommunication. 49 seconds remain.

2/10/21: Freeney brings pressure, but Brady hits Watson for a 19 yard gain.

1/10/40: The Patriots don’t use a time out, and let nearly 20 seconds run off the clock before snapping the ball again. Hey, who’s complaining? Brady finds Evans for 15 yards, then calls their 2nd time out with 24 seconds left.

1/10/45: Can you feel the tension? The crowd is just unbelievable.

Following the time out, CBS finds Mike Vrabel chewing on a towel on the New England sideline, and Peyton Manning sitting with his head down, unable to look.

“Brady out of the shot gun again, this crowd roaring.”

“Takes the snap..sets up, sets up”

“Throws one over the mid-INTERCEPTED! Marlin Jackson!”

“Marlin’s got it!”

“We’re goin’ to the Super Bowl! We’re goin’ to the Super Bowl!”

bradyface

Unbelievable. Before the Colts line up again, CBS flashes to Belichick looking on in disbelief. Suck one, Bill.

IND 0:16

Victory formation!

As Manning takes a knee, Jim Nantz has the final word: “We have just witnessed the largest comeback EVER in a conference championship game.”

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reliving this moment with me, but don’t forget: There’s still another game to go.

See you soon, Colts fans.