I like to think I’ve been blessed to see just a handful of great sports moments in person. Just being present at one, is something I am extremely thankful for. However, I’ve seen several. Many are those “jump up and down and scream” games…you know, where the crowd celebrates in unison and it looks like a mosh pit. It’s where everyone is high-fiving everyone and your team just won a huge game.
One such moment came in the 2007 AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis.
At the time, we had Colts season tickets. It had been an amazing season with Indy rolling up the AFC South as they had been accustomed to doing. Peyton Manning led the league in passer rating (101.0) and TD passes (31) while achieving a #3 seed with a 12-4 record. A 3 seed hosting the conference championship game was quite unlikely but not impossible. It took a massive upset by the New England Patriots to get it done, but sure enough they beat the San Diego Chargers to make it happen.
I remember sitting on the couch and cheering so loud, knowing that a week from that moment we’d be sitting in our seats in section 302 of the RCA Dome to witness the first ever AFC Championship game in Indianapolis.
Throughout the week, we kept hearing about how much tickets were going for to get into the game. With our season tickets, we paid about $100 for them. For our seating area, Stubhub.com had listings of up to $1,000. That could have paid for the entire season, but we opted to take the once in a lifetime opportunity to take the 2 hour drive down to Indianapolis on Sunday.
Just driving through the city to our regular parking area, you could feel the buzz downtown. The streets were populated with blue jerseys, tailgating was in full force and the pre-game show was blaring on the radio.
As we headed into the RCA Dome, we learned the Chicago Bears had taken care of business in the NFC Championship game. Living in Northern Indiana, could there be a better matchup for the Super Bowl? We have to win this game.
Unfortunately, that meant beating a team that the Colts have been brutal against…Tom Brady and the Patriots. At the time, this was a pretty decent rivalry with several regular season and playoff meetings, mostly dominated by New England.
The first half looked like history was going to repeat itself. Indianapolis was down early and often. 2 field goals by former Patriot Adam Vinatieri was all the offense could produce. 21-6 New England at the half.
Everyone in the dome who went for concessions or restroom break looked like they were walking to a funeral. It was depressing and it felt like the season was over.
However, opening the 3rd quarter, a nearly 7 minute drive by the Colts ended with a Peyton Manning sneak for a touchdown. 21-13 Pats.
A quick three-and-out by New England gave the ball back to Indy and they did not disappoint. A short drive ended with a 1 yard pass to Dan Klecko to put the Colts within 2 points. A conversion attempt saw Manning hit his favorite target, Marvin Harrison to tie the game.
New England took the lead back making it 28-21. Colts running back Dominic Rhodes was about to score, but fumbled right near the goal line. Pro Bowler center Jeff Saturday landed on it however and tied the game at 28.
The teams combined for 3 field goals after that with the Patriots up 34-31. Joseph Addai gave the Colts a 38-34 lead when he scored a 3 yard touchdown run. He went right up the middle nearly untouched into the end zone.
57,000 Colts fan collectively held their breath as Tom Brady took over with the clock reading 1:00. The perfect amount of time for the future hall of fame quarterback to drive down the field and take on the Bears in Miami.
On the 4th play of the drive with about 20 seconds remaining….Marlin Jackson:
I’ve certainly never heard the dome as loud as that moment was when Jackson intercepted that pass. I actually had someone jump on me in excitement. I remember myself, my wife Angel, and the couple to our left that also had season tickets embrace simultaneously in celebration. Everyone was standing on the bleacher seats and high-fiving anyone they could. This was it…our team was going to the Super Bowl!
We must have spent hours getting out of the stadium, getting to the car, and trying to drive north. I was fine with that. The celebration that spilled out into the streets was nothing short of awesome. Listening to the joy on the radio post-game show was unbelievable.
I’m eternally grateful we decided to keep our tickets and go the game. That kind of atmosphere is nearly impossible to replicate. Of course, with a win over the Bears two weeks later, the Colts would go on to win the Super Bowl, making the AFC Championship game that much better to be a part of.