Friday, January 9, 2015

Indianapolis vs. Denver in the Postseason

The Colts beat the Bengals last Sunday, 26-10. Because the Ravens won in Pittsburgh the night before, Indy goes to Denver this weekend to face the Broncos in the NFL's divisional round. It will be the third time that the Colts and Broncos face each other in the AFC playoffs and the sixth Indianapolis-Denver postseason meeting in the four major sports.

Let's take a closer look at each of these:

After falling in their first playoff game three times in four years, Peyton Manning's Colts finally got over the hump in a big way in 2003. Manning led touchdown drives on Indy's first four drives, culminating in two TD throws to Marvin Harrison and two to Brandon Stokley. The fifth drive was a miserable failure, and by miserable failure I mean it ended in a field goal for a 31-3 halftime lead. On the five possessions, the Colts breezed down the field in an average of 2:15.

The scoring kept up in the third quarter, with Manning hitting Reggie Wayne for a 7-yard touchdown strike and a Mike Vanderjagt field goal. Sitting pretty with a 41-3 lead, Manning took a seat for the fourth quarter. Edgerrin James then lost a fumble to snap the string of seven straight Indianapolis scoring drives. Jake Plummer and Rod Smith teamed up to push the Broncos into end zone, but they still lost 41-10.

Manning was brilliant, going 22-26 for 377 yards and five touchdowns. Excluding those that threw only one pass, he is one of four players to achieve a perfect 158.3 passer rating in a postseason game.

Player Age Date ▴ Tm Opp Result Round Day Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A
Don Meredith 29-258 1967-12-24 DAL CLE W 52-14 Divisional Sun 11 13 84.62% 212 2 0 158.3 16.31 19.38
Terry Bradshaw* 28-108 1976-12-19 PIT @ BAL W 40-14 Divisional Sun 14 18 77.78% 264 3 0 158.3 14.67 18.00
Dave Krieg 25-065 1983-12-24 SEA DEN W 31-7 Wild Card Sat 12 13 92.31% 200 3 0 158.3 15.38 20.00
Peyton Manning 27-286 2004-01-04 IND DEN W 41-10 Wild Card Sun 22 26 84.62% 377 5 0 158.3 14.50 18.35
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/20/2014.

The Colts went to Kansas City for the divisional round and beat the Chiefs 38-31 in a wild game in which neither team punted. They advanced to the AFC Championship Game in Foxborough, where they lost to the mid-dynasty Patriots, 24-14. 

For the second straight year, the 12-4 Colts and 10-6 Broncos met at the RCA Dome in the 3-vs.-6 AFC wild card game. And for the second straight year it was a rout. Manning set an NFL record with 49 touchdown passes in the regular season and he kept it going in the first quarter with a 2-yard completion to James Mungro.

Edgerrin James added a 1-yard plunge for a 14-0 lead after the first quarter, but Indy really stepped on the gas in the second. Manning hit Dallas Clark for a 19-yard score and Reggie Wayne from 35 yards out before sneaking in himself from the 1-yard line for three touchdowns in as many possessions. The Broncos got on the board with a Jason Elam field goal, but they couldn't keep up with the Colts and trailed 35-3 at halftime.

Denver came out strong in the third as Jake Plummer threw TDs to Rod Smith and Jeb Putzier to cut the lead to 35-17, but it only took Manning six plays to answer with a 43-yard TD to Wayne. Tatum Bell and Dominic Rhodes traded short rushing scores in the fourth as the Colts cruised to a 49-24 victory.

Manning threw for 458 yards, the second-most in a playoff game at the time** until Drew Brees took over the second and third slots with two games in 2011. Reggie Wayne reeled in ten catches for 221 yards, the fourth-highest receiving yardage total in the postseason.

** The postseason passing yardage record is held by Bernie Kosar, who threw for 489 (on 64 passes!) in Cleveland's double-OT win over the Jets in 1986. The postseason receiving yardage mark is held by Buffalo's Eric Moulds, who racked up 240 on just nine catches in a 1998 loss to Miami.

Indy's run fizzled out in New England again, this time in the divisional round as the great Patriots defense bottled up Manning and company in a 20-3 win en route to another Super Bowl.


1972 ABA West Semis

Let's throw it back to the red, white and blue basketball and the days of the ABA. Led by reigning league MVP Mel Daniels, Slick Leonard's Indiana Pacers went 47-37. The Western Division only had five teams, so the Denver Rockets made the playoffs as the four seed with a meager 34-50 mark.

Despite the difference in record, the Rockets earned a road split with a 106-105 victory in Game Two. In Denver, the Pacers won the third game in overtime 122-120 before the Rockets came back to even the series with a 16-point win. The home team won the next two games as the Rockets pushed Indy to a seventh game. At home, the Pacers held off Denver 91-89 thanks to two blocks by Freddie Lewis in the final 14 seconds.

Indiana knocked off the 60-win defending-champion Utah Stars in the seven-game West Finals before toppling Lou Carnesecca, Rick Barry and the New York Nets in the ABA Finals, 4-2. 

1973 ABA West Semis

The Pacers (51-33) and Rockets (47-37) were more evenly matched when they met in the opening round a year later, but Indy had an easier time dispatching Denver. Home victories by 23 and 13 points gave the Pacers a 2-0 series lead. Although the Rockets won Game Three, the Pacers responded with a 97-95 win before going back home to close it out in five games, 121-107. 

Indiana took down the top-seeded Stars again to advance to the Finals. They went on to repeat as champions, beating the Kentucky Colonels on the road in Game Seven, 88-81.

1975 ABA West Finals

George McGinnis shared league MVP honors with Julius Erving in '75, but the Pacers were still only the third seed in the West heading into the postseason. After upsetting George Gervin and the Spurs in the first round, the next opponent was a familiar one in Denver.

In their first year with a new team name, the Nuggets ran up the ABA's best record at 65-19. Led by all-ABA first-teamer and assists leader Mack Calvin, field-goal percentage leader Bobby Jones and new head coach Larry Brown, Denver won the West by 14 games in the regular season.

The Nuggets were 40-2 at home, but after winning the opener, they dropped Game Two 131-124 thanks to 44 points from Billy Knight. In Game Three at the new Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, McGinnis went off for 33 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists as the Pacers took a surprising series lead. The Nuggets answered with a blowout win in Game Four to tie things up a 2-2 going back to Denver.

For Game Five, the Nuggets pulled out all the stops, hiring "Robota, the Golden Witch of the West" to put a spell on McGinnis and the Pacers. Unfazed, Indiana dominated 109-90 to give Denver consecutive home losses and as many as they had in the entire regular season. The Nuggets were able to grind out a victory in Game Six to send it back to Denver for a winner-take-all seventh game.

McGinnis took over with an incredible performance in Game Seven, scoring 40 points, grabbing 23 rebounds and dishing out eight assists. Indiana pulled out its third straight win at Denver, 104-96 to stun the Nuggets and reach the league finals. They lost to Artis Gilmore and the Colonels in five games, but McGinnis ended the Cinderella run with a remarkable 32.3 ppg/15.9 rpg/8.2 apg line in 18 playoff games. The league merged with the NBA after the 1976 season, as the Pacers, Nuggets, Nets and Spurs joined the NBA.

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