Indianapolis Colts: Resembling the Patriots

On a lark, I decided to try and figure out which past Super Bowl this year’s matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints reminded me of. I didn’t really expect to find any game that was a proper fit – the Saints and Colts are pretty unique teams – but I figured it was a worth a little research. What I found surprised me. The 2004 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles seems to be an almost exact replica of this year’s contest. Take a look:

2004 EAGLES: (per game averages)

OFFENSE: 351.1 total yards, 248.7 passing yards, 102.4 rushing yards, 24.1 points

DEFENSE: 319.7 total yards, 200.8 passing yards, 118.9 rushing yards, 16.2 points

2009 SAINTS: (per game averages)

OFFENSE: 403.8 total yards, 272.2 passing yards, 131.6 rushing yards, 31.9 points

DEFENSE: 357.8 total yards, 235.6 passing yards, 122.2 rushing yards, 21.3 points

SIMILARITIES: The similarities between the ’04 Eagles and the ’09 Saints are striking. Each romped their way through the regular season, winning 13 of their first 14 games before dropping their final two. While the Saints were a bit more potent on offense, both squads averaged over 350 total yards and 24 points a game over the course of the season. They each possessed in-their-prime franchise QBs playing in a specifically tailored system, and they surrounded them with a ton of talent, including dynamic running backs who could catch the ball out of the backfield (Brian Westbrook/Reggie Bush/Pierre Thomas), and a big, playmaking star wide receivers (Terrell Owens/Marques Colston).

Each found their city hosting the NFC Championship game against the #2 seed, and both had to exercise demons in order to reach the Super Bowl. For Philly, they’d lost in the NFC Championship title game three consecutive seasons, and hadn’t been to a Super Bowl in 24 years. For the Saints, they’d been one of the most moribund franchises in all the NFL, having won only two playoffs games in their 42-year history. Both came into the Super Bowl facing a team that had just won a title a few years prior (in Philly’s case, the Pats had won two of the pats three), and each entered the big game as underdogs.

2004 PATRIOTS: (per game averages)

OFFENSE: 357.6 total yards, 224.2 passing yards, 133.4 rushing yards, 27.3 points

DEFENSE: 310.8 total yards, 212.5 passing yards, 98.2 rushing yards, 16.2 points

2009 COLTS: (per game averages)

OFFENSE: 363.1 total yards, 282.2 passing yards, 80.9 rushing yards, 26 points

DEFENSE: 339.2 total yards, 212.7 passing yards, 126.5 rushing yards, 19.2 points

SIMILARITIES: Upon first glance you wouldn’t think these two teams have much in common. The ’04 Patriots were powered by a Corey Dillon-led running game and a disruptive defense. The ’09 Colts sported the worst rushing game in the league and a mediocre (at least according to the stats) defense. The Patriots relied on great schemes and adjustments by head coach Bill Belichick, and the steady hand of QB Tom Brady. Indy uses Peyton Manning in the Belichick role and Jim Caldwell as Brady. The one quality the two teams share is an incredible focus on, and commitment to, playing winning football.

In 2004 the Patriots found themselves with a 21 game winning streak before finally dropping a Week 7 game against Pittsburgh. This season, Indianapolis surpassed New England’s record by winning 23 straight. Over the course of those winning streaks, both teams displayed a killer instinct and an ability to perform at crucial times. The 2004 Patriots weren’t as pretty as their ’07 squad, but it was an experienced team full of leaders and winners. Kind of reminiscent of the ’09 Colts, yes? The 2005 team that lost to Pittsburgh in the playoffs had more talent, but they didn’t know how to be a champion. The 2004 Patriots knew. And so do the 2009 Colts.

Whether you’re an Indianapolis sports fan who follows the Colts, or someone simply interested in all the story-lines coming out of this year’s Super Bowl, keep checking back with on a daily basis.