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There are two eras of the Colts franchise. The Baltimore years, which extended from the team’s creation in 1953 through its move out of Baltimore in 1984, and the Indianapolis years, which have now extended several years beyond the team’s time in Baltimore. Officially the Colts began in 1953, but there was actually a Baltimore Colts team that played in the AAFC in the 1940s, and the NFL in 1950. But that team was disbanded after a single NFL season because of financial reasons, and according to the NFL the 1953 version of the Colts was an expansion team, and not a continuation of the previous franchise. The awarding of the Colts expansion team in 1953 was in large part due to the failure of expansion into Dallas. In 1952 the Dallas Texans were created, lost their ownership, became wards of the league, couldn’t find new ownership, and were canceled after a single season. That left an opening for another expansion team in 1953, which became the new version of the Baltimore Colts, who have thrived ever since.
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The Indianapolis Colts are a top team in the NFL, with a solid roster and a bright future ahead. The team is known for its balanced attack and efficient play, making them a difficult opponent for any team. Key players include a talented quarterback and a dominant receiving corps.
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Championships by the Indianapolis Colts
1958 NFL Championship
Often called The Greatest Game Ever Played, and confirmed by a vote of the media on the best game in the NFL’s first 100 years, the Colts beat the Giants 23-17 in overtime to win the NFL Championship. Colts receiver Raymond Berry caught 12 passes, a championship game record that stood for 55 years, and Johnny Unitas led the Colts on a game-tying drive in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, and the game-winning drive in the first ever championship decided in overtime.
1959 NFL Championship
Once again it was the Giants, and once again the Colts were trailing in the fourth quarter. But instead of squeaking by in overtime, Baltimore exploded for 24 points in the game’s final quarter, winning 31-16. In the game Johnny Unitas threw two touchdowns and ran for a third.
1968 NFL Championship
The Super Bowl era was upon us, so very few people remember that the Colts beat the Browns in the NFL Championship Game, 34-0. That result was rendered moot by the historical upset of the Colts in Super Bowl III, when Joe Namath’s New York Jets shocked the world, 16-7.
Super Bowl V
Realignment from the AFL-NFL merger put the Colts into the AFC, where they were first-time champions of the new conference. That put them up against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V, whom they beat, 16-13. Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley was the game’s MVP, and remains the only member of the losing team to ever win the award.
Super Bowl XLI
Thirty-six years and a move to Indiana later, it was another Hall of Fame quarterback leading the Colts to victory in the Super Bowl. This time it was Peyton Manning throwing for 247 yards and a touchdown in the 29-17 victory over the Bears, winning the game’s MVP award. One year later Peyton’s brother Eli would win the Super Bowl MVP.
Key Stats by the Indianapolis Colts
Overall the Colts have been conference champions seven times in their history – five times in Baltimore and twice in Indianapolis. The Colts have won 16 division titles in their history, including nine in the AFC South. The Colts have appeared in the postseason a total of 29 times in their history. The nickname Colts was chosen as an homage to the history of horse racing in Maryland and the Preakness Stakes that are run every year at Pimlico.
Top Players in Indianapolis Colts History
The Colts franchise has been blessed by the two of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning. Both men are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and have had their numbers retired by the Colts (19 for Unitas and 18 for Manning.) Unitas was a three-time NFL MVP and is a member of the NFL’s 50th, 75th, and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams. Manning was the NFL MVP five times and is a member of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. Those early Colts teams that won championships in the 1950s also featured Hall of Fame wide receiver Raymond Barry, running back Lenny Moore, defensive tackle Art Donovan, defensive end Gino Marchetti, and offensive lineman Jim Parker. All of them are in the Hall of Fame and have had their numbers retired. More recent Colts players in the Hall of Fame include running backs Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, and Edgerrin James. The 9,226 yards rushed for by James is the franchise’s all-time record. Another all-timer who played with James is wide receiver Marvin Harrison. The 2016 Hall of Fame inductee finished his career with 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, and 128 touchdowns. All three marks for Harrison are Colts team records. His 128 receiving touchdowns ranks fifth in NFL history.
Top Coaches in Indianapolis Colts History
As great as the players have been for the Colts, the coaches might even be better. Three different head coaches in Colts history have ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Weeb Ewbank may best be known for handing the Colts their most infamous loss, Super Bowl III to the Jets. But before he was the Jets head coach he was the head man with the Colts for nine seasons, and twice he won the NFL Championship. He was the NFL Coach of the Year in 1958 as a Colt. Don Shula is most famous of course for his many years in Miami and being the coach of the only perfect team in NFL history. But before that Shula was Ewbank’s successor with the Colts, and established himself as one of the great football minds long before he moved to South Florida. As the Colts head coach for seven seasons Shula was twice the NFL Coach of the Year. The last of the big three is Tony Dungy, the Colts all-time leader with 92 career wins. As the Colts head coach from 2002 to 2008, Dungy won five division titles and was the sideline leader for their victory in Super Bowl XLI.
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