What are the best moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. Peyton Manning breaks Dan Marino’s record
There’s a view of Peyton Manning’s record-breaking 49th touchdown pass in the 2004 season that sums up Manning’s brilliance perfectly. Brandon Stokley is in the middle of his route, deeking to his left. At that exact moment, Manning has already released the ball about 8 yards to Stokley’s right – or almost directly at the safety standing in the end zone. But the misdirection has left the safety completely flat-footed, allowing Stokley to make an easy catch for the touchdown. With that, Manning snatched one of the most hallowed records in the game from Dan Marino, whose 48 touchdown throws in 1984 stood as the benchmark for 20 years. Fun fact: Manning played just one series in the final game of the season, so his 49 TD passes essentially came in just 15 games.
4. 2006 AFC championship game
Four straight double-digit win seasons had amounted to bupkis for the Indianapolis Colts, not even a trip to the Super Bowl. So when they fell behind the New England Patriots 21-3 in the 2006 season’s AFC championship game, well, it looked like another double-digit win season lost. No team had ever come back from 18 points down to win a conference title game, and to that point Peyton Manning was 0-2 vs. Tom Brady in the playoffs. So not looking good. Then Manning scored on a 1-yard run, threw another to tie the game and then, trailing by three with just over two minutes to go, led the Colts on a 6-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Joseph Addai touchdown run that proved to be the game-winner. The Colts were finally on to the Super Bowl, where they beat the Bears 29-17 for their first (and still only) Indianapolis title.
3. Super Bowl V
The first Super Bowl between the AFC and NFC champions was a total dud … until the end. Eleven turnovers, including seven by the Colts. And yet they won? Without their starting quarterback? The Colts trailed the Dallas Cowboys 13-6 going into the fourth quarter, and were without Johnny Unitas, who was knocked out with a rib injury in the second quarter. The Colts did everything they could to lose the game – missing an extra point, throwing three interceptions, including one in the end zone, and losing four fumbles, the last of which came on a bizarre busted trick play that resulted in Baltimore fumbling at the Dallas 5-yard line only to have the football trickle out of the end zone after a mad scramble. Only a pair of turnovers bailed out the Colts: the first came when Rick Volk picked off Craig Morton and returned the ball to the Cowboys’ 3-yard line. Two plays later, the Colts tied the game. The second came with just over a minute to go when Dan Reeves had a ball slip through his hands, resulting in yet another interception deep in Dallas territory. With nine seconds to go, Jim O’Brien kicked a 14-yard field goal – yes, 14 yards – to win the Baltimore Colts’ first and only Super Bowl.
2. Drafting Peyton Manning
It seems so obvious now, but prior to the ’97 draft there was actual debate being had as to which quarterback the Colts should select No. 1 overall: Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf? Manning was viewed as the safe pick, while scouts pegged Leaf as the player with more upside. And beings that GMs are human and want to prove their genius as much as the rest of us, Leaf provided an intriguing alternative. As the story goes, via Leaf’s agent Leigh Steinberg, Leaf preferred San Diego over Indianapolis, so to assure he got what he wanted he sabotaged his own prospects with the Colts by skipping a pre-draft interview with then-head coach Jim Mora. Bill Polian, then the Colts GM, doesn’t give any credence to the sabotage story having an impact on who they ultimately chose. Whatever the reason, the Colts took Manning and, well, you know the rest.
1. The Greatest game ever played
The 1958 NFL championship game could be considered a bigger deal for the NFL than it was for the Baltimore Colts, even though it ended with the Colts winning their first title. It was the first nationally televised game, and because of the drama that ensued it provided one heck of a first impression to a nationwide audience. Down 17-14 late in the fourth quarter to the New York Giants, Johnny Unitas marched the Colts 86 yards for the game-tying field goal and, in the process, helped coin the phrase “the 2-minute drill.” In overtime, the first ever in a playoff game, Unitas went on the march again, moving 80 yards for the winning score, which came on an Alan Ameche 1-yard run. No championship had been decided in overtime again until Super Bowl LI, when the Patriots beat the Falcons.