When Peyton Manning was sidelined for an entire season with a neck injury, the Indianapolis Colts had their worst season in over a decade, going 2-14. The record earned them a number one pick in the following year’s draft. The Colts office was faced with a very touch decision; keep Manning around, pay his $28 million salary and not know if he could play at the same level. Or sever ties with the future first ballot hall of fame quarterback and gamble on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. They chose the later and have never looked back. With the spotlight on Luck, the Colts have never missed the playoffs under his helm.
The Colts have gone to three straight playoffs, and won the AFC South division championship the last two. The 2014 campaign got off to a rocky start when they opened up with back to back losses. The opening day loss was against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. Sitting at 0-2 the Colts saw a welcoming site when they got a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have been at the bottom of the entire league for several years. The Colts picked up the 44-17 win and managed to string together five straight victories.
After two lopsided losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and New England Patriots, their season was once again in turmoil. Luck and the Colts prevailed and put together a four game win streak. Looking hot heading down the final stretch of the season, they ran into the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys handed them their most embarrassing loss of the season as they beat them 42-7. The Colts finished the season at 11-5; good enough for the AFC South and the number four seed.
The number four seed meant they got a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have been one of the top teams in the regular season for the last four years, but getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round every single time. The Colts were able to keep that streak alive and sent the Bengals home with a 26-10 victory.
So as the divisional round of the playoffs came, a trip to Denver to face Manning and the Broncos for a second time in the 2014 campaign was looming ahead. Manning and the Broncos ran through the playoffs last season on their way to Superbowl 48. Manning was able to get the Broncos on the scoreboard first and the Broncos lead 7-0. After the opening drive, the Broncos offense never seemed to clicked. The Indianapolis defense stepped up and shut them down. Luck was able to get his first road playoff win, and did it against his team’s former captain.
A trip to Foxboro to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship lay ahead. One of the team’s bigger losses of the season came in week 11 as the Patriots jumped all over them 42-20. Luck was able to get some payback for the opening day loss against the Broncos, now looks to do the same against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
If Luck is able to lead the Colts to the Superbowl in just his third year as a starter, he will no doubt solidify himself as one of the top signal callers in the league. The AFC Championship game is the finale to Championship Sunday. Kick off is at 6:40pm Sunday January 18 on CBS.
Commentary by Andy Lapic
Photo by Josh Hallett –Flickr License