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Published: Dec. 1, 2011 at 08:20 p.m.
Updated: Dec. 5, 2011 at 12:19 p.m.

The Patriots-Colts rivalry

For nearly a decade, we've witnessed one of the great NFL rivalries: Patriots-Colts.

The two teams will square off again Sunday, but it won't be the same without Peyton Manning.

With Manning's neck injury a concern, and with his successor potentially waiting to be drafted, we could be witnessing the end of an era.

So, if this is it, it's been one helluva ride. Let's look back at a decade-long rivalry with the assistance of ex-Patriot and Pro Bowl linebacker Willie McGinest.

"It was kind of like a chess match between coaches and coordinators, and what their offense would do with Peyton Manning against our defense, and what our defense would try to do against their really good pass-rushing defense and what they had. It just built up," said McGinest, now an NFL Network analyst. "A lot of times, we just knew we would have to go through each other to get to the Super Bowl."

11 Photos Total

  • 2003, Week 13: Patriots 38, Colts 34 11

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    2003, Week 13: Patriots 38, Colts 34

    The outcome of this late-November showdown was critical for home-field advantage. Bill Belichick's defense confused Manning in the first half, and the Patriots led 31-10 in the third quarter.

    "We were never, and I will say it again, we were never comfortable in that lead," McGinest said.

    Manning eventually figured it out and threw three second-half TDs to tie the game at 31. After New England retook the lead and clung to a four-point advantage, the Colts' final shot came down to fourth-and-goal at the 1, but McGinest fired off the edge unblocked to stop Edgerrin James for a loss, sealing a big win for New England.

    "I was rushing 100 percent of the time, but our game plan was always to disguise," McGinest said. "I gave a pre-snap look like I was dropping into coverage, and he audibled. He took the bait, pretty much, and audibled to a run. ... He saw a soft edge and thought they could run it, but I was coming off the edge, man, and just blew it up."

  • 2003, AFC championship: Patriots 24, Colts 14 10

    David Drapkin/Associated Press

    2003, AFC championship: Patriots 24, Colts 14

    The sloppy field conditions in Foxboro weren't conducive to the Colts' fast-track offense, and it didn't help that Peyton Manning was completely flummoxed by the Patriots' defense -- again. The result: Four Manning interceptions, with three of them going to Ty Law.

    In the end, this one was never as close as the final score.

    "We confused them a lot, and our goal was to beat up those receivers," McGinest said. "We threw off a lot of timing and roughed up those receivers. If they were throwing timing routes, sometimes the ball was in the air, and they weren't there. They were getting harassed."

  • 2004, Week 1: Patriots 27, Colts 24 9

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    2004, Week 1: Patriots 27, Colts 24

    The Patriots and Colts opened up the season with a nationally televised Thursday night game that provided all the drama you'd expect from the rivalry.

    Brady and Manning duked it out the entire game, but it came down, in the end, to a Mike Vanderjagt 48-yard field goal attempt that the Colts' kicker missed wide right. The bigger play, though, might have come just before on third-and-8 from the Patriots' 17-yard line, when McGinest sacked Manning to push back the field goal attempt 12 yards.

    "I was surprised, because nobody blocked me," McGinest said. "When I was moving around, he shifted the running back to the other side. I came off the edge squeaky clean and got the sack. It ended up pushing them back farther, and Vanderjagt shanked it."

  • 2004, AFC divisional game: Patriots 20, Colts 3 8

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    2004, AFC divisional game: Patriots 20, Colts 3

    Another January trip to Foxboro meant another game of dealing with a sloppy field and cold weather, something the Patriots took full advantage of. Brady sat back as running back Corey Dillon did all the work, rushing 23 times for 144 yards to pace the offense.

    Meanwhile, New England's defense continued to punish and frustrate Indianapolis, holding its explosive offense to just 276 total yards and Manning without a touchdown.

    "You've got to change the game in your favor, making it, not a finesse game, but a physical game," McGinest said. "We knew Marvin Harrison didn't want to get hit; we knew Reggie Wayne didn't want to get hit; we knew Dallas Clark didn't like getting harassed at the line of scrimmage. We did the things that they didn't like going against."

  • 2005, Week 9: Colts 40, Patriots 21 7

    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    2005, Week 9: Colts 40, Patriots 21

    The Colts were 7-0 and on a roll when they rolled into Foxboro, and simply dominated the 4-3 Patriots in what could probably be considered the most lopsided game of the rivalry.

    Manning threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns, spreading the ball to his favorite targets, as Harrison and Wayne had monster games. Both had an equal number of catches (nine), and Harrison had 128 yards and two touchdowns to Wayne's 124 and one. What a relief for Manning it must have been.

    "I think it meant a lot (for Peyton), especially beating us at home in the fashion they beat us in," McGinest said. "They whooped our butts really good. ... They did everything they wanted to do on offense and limited us with their defense."

  • 2006, Week 9: Colts 27, Patriots 20 6

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    2006, Week 9: Colts 27, Patriots 20

    This was another midseason showdown with playoff implications, as the Colts went into Foxboro and pulled out a close win over the Patriots.

    The defense caught Brady slipping, as the Patriots' quarterback had his worst game against the Colts with four interceptions and no touchdowns. Meanwhile, on the other side, Manning hooked up with his favorite target, Harrison, eight times for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

    The game came down to one final drive for the Patriots, but Colts linebacker Cato June's second interception sealed the win.

  • 2006, AFC championship: Colts 38, Patriots 34 5

    Amy Sancetta/Associated Press

    2006, AFC championship: Colts 38, Patriots 34

    The best way to describe this game? One for the ages, and with a crazy second half.

    It was wild. How wild? The game featured touchdowns by three different linemen. Neither Brady nor Manning was particularly impressive, but Manning came through when it mattered most.

    With 2:17 remaining, and the Colts trailing by three, Manning pieced together an 80-yard drive -- with an assist to Wayne from the football gods -- that culminated with Joseph Addai's go-ahead touchdown. Still, Brady had one minute to lead the Patriots back but threw an interception to Marlin Jackson to end the game.

    Colts win. Colts go to the Super Bowl. Colts win the Super Bowl.

  • 2007, Week 9: Patriots 24, Colts 20 4

    Tom Strattman/Associated Press

    2007, Week 9: Patriots 24, Colts 20

    A game between the last of the NFL's unbeaten teams, and, of course, it came down to the end.

    The Colts led by 10 with nine minutes remaining and threatened to end the Patriots' perfect regular season, but Brady was clutch down the stretch, throwing fourth-quarter touchdowns to Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk to eek out a close win.

    Randy Moss shined in this one, hauling in nine catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. His 55-yard catch on the Patriots' winning drive set up the go-ahead touchdown.

  • 2008, Week 9: Colts 18, Patriots 15 3

    Brian Spurlock/US Presswire

    2008, Week 9: Colts 18, Patriots 15

    Naturally, this game was hyped, but with Brady lost for the season and Matt Cassel filling in, the game lacked its usual luster.

    Manning threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns, both to Anthony Gonzalez, and even without Brady, the Patriots still took the game down to the wire. However, a Bob Sanders interception late in the fourth quarter all but ended New England's chances of winning.

  • 2009, Week 10: Colts 35, Patriots 34 2

    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    2009, Week 10: Colts 35, Patriots 34

    Three words sum this up: Fourth-and-2.

    If this isn't the greatest game in the history of the rivalry, then certainly it has the most memorable play. Manning led a remarkable charge to pull Indy within six with 2:23 remaining.

    However, the Patriots faced fourth-and-2 at their own 29, and Belichick decided to go for it. A gutsy decision, but the Pats fell inches short when Melvin Bullitt stopped Faulk.

    That gave the Colts a very short field, and Manning hit Wayne for a 1-yard TD with 13 seconds left to complete a stunning comeback.

    "In 2009 versus the teams we had, Bill had more confidence in his defense," McGinest said. "We wanted to be out there to stop Peyton Manning. And I think (Belichick) didn't have the confidence in that defense. ... I think Bill decided, 'Hey, my best players right now, and the people I have confidence in are Brady and the offense.' And I agree with h

  • 2010, Week 11: Patriots 31, Colts 28 1

    David Butler II/US Presswire

    2010, Week 11: Patriots 31, Colts 28

    In what might go down as the final Patriots-Colts game featuring Brady vs. Manning, Manning simply made too many mistakes. He threw three interceptions, and his final one was the most costly of the bunch.

    The Colts trailed 31-14 with under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but Manning led them back to within three with a pair of touchdown passes to Blair White.

    Indianapolis' defense held Brady and Co. to give Manning one final chance, but Manning was picked off by Patriots defensive back James Sanders. The worst part about it? The Colts were already in field goal range to tie the game.