2010: Colts 23, Bengals (2-7) 17
Early in the game, all the pieces were in place for an Indy romp. The Colts jumped out to a 17-0 lead and were in cruise control early in the second quarter. However, a 42-yard run by Brian Leonard on a punt fake swung the momentum back Cincinnati’s way, and they were in the game throughout. The Colts offense was inefficient as they punted seven times in the game. Five Cincy turnovers were their ultimate undoing, but despite all of that, the Bengals had the ball with under a minute left and a chance to win the game. Back-to-back sacks by Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis ended whatever hope the Bengals had of a comeback.
2009: Colts 18, 49ers (3-3) 14
Oddly enough, Joseph Addai threw the only touchdown pass of this game, as Peyton Manning wasn’t his usual self. You would never be able to tell that #18 was off from his final line: 31-48 for 347 yards, but he missed on a lot of throws that he normally makes. Peyton’s shakiness kept the Niners in the game, as Alex Smith was solid in his first start in two seasons, despite playing behind a struggling offensive line that allowed four sacks.
2008: Colts 10, Browns (4-7) 6
Peyton Manning did complete 15 of his 21 pass attempts, but threw for just 125 yards in the victory. Both defenses dominated the game as there wasn’t an offensive touchdown scored - the only TD in teh game came on a Robert Mathis scoop-and-score off of a Derek Anderson fumble in the fourth quarter. It was the first time since Week One of 2003, coincidentally enough also against Cleveland, that the Colts had failed to score an offensive touchdown in a game.
2007: Colts 13, Chiefs (4-6) 10
Coming off back-to-back losses to New England and San Diego, their first two of the season, the Colts were in desperate need of a victory. Peyton Manning was dreadful (I would argue it was possibly his worst game since pre-2003), leading to a 23.4 halftime QB rating. After another half, he had only bumped that up to an even 50, finishing with a 16-32 day for 163 yards and a pick. The Colts only managed 73 first half yards, but were able to put together a 14-play drive that ate up the final seven minutes of regulation, to set up Adam Vinatieri’s winner from 24 yards out.
2006: Colts 17, Bills (3-6) 16
Peyton Manning was strong in this game, but the Buffalo defense forced mostly short throws as Indy had to dink-and-dunk their way down the field. Peyton finished with a solid line of 27-39, for 236 yards and a score, but the Bills were still in position to take the lead in the fourth. Ryan Lindell missed a 41-yard field goal with just over six minutes left that would’ve given Buffalo the lead. The Colts took over possession, picked up four first downs, and were able to end the game without the Bills getting another chance.
2005: Colts 13, Browns (1-1) 6
Everyone remembers the 2005 Colts rolling over every team they faced, but early in the year Indy struggled against a Browns team that would finish the year 6-10. Peyton Manning had a quiet day with no scores and a pick, and the Colts rode three Dwight Freeney sacks to a win over the Trent Dilfer led Browns. Dilfer went 22 of 29 in the game, but for only 208 yards. The Colts led throughout, but never managed to put the game safely away.
2003 Colts 9, Browns (0-0) 6
Another tight win over a terrible Browns team opened the 2003 season. The Browns would finish 5-11 on the year, but they took the Colts to overtime as Peyton Manning’s two interceptions kept the Browns in the game all day. Manning finally rallied the team to a winning field goal drive in the final seconds, but no one would have looked at his passer rating of 55 that day and said, “Oh yeah. This guy is going to win the MVP award this year”.