FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Beginning in the early 2000s and lasting for more than a decade, the matchups between Peyton Manning’s Colts and Tom Brady’s Patriots were must-watch matchups.
From their three AFC championship games, to the six regular-season MVP awards Brady and Manning captured during that span, quarterback play was the centerpiece of the rivalry.
Manning’s departure from Colts and Andrew Luck’s arrival in 2012 ushered in a new era in Indianapolis. But so far Luck hasn’t been able to duplicate the success that his predecessor had against the Patriots.
In five starts against New England, Luck has yet to notch his first victory against Brady.
Luck is hoping to change his fortunes on Thursday night, when his comeback tour stops in New England.
“Certainly (in) my experience, we have come up on the short end and that’s not fun,” he said. “Obviously, we would like to turn that around. We would like to flip the story in a sense. But growing up I remember some of those great games, certainly that AFC championship game here. So yeah, I do think I have an appreciation for it.”
But on a team that has had a significant change in the roster over the past two seasons, the rivalry hasn’t been exactly the hottest topic around the locker room.
“A young roster, just not as much talk about it,” said Colts coach Frank Reich, who saw some of those big games up close when he started his coaching career.
Perhaps that’s because Indy has lost seven straight games in the series.
Things heated up again in February when Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reneged on his verbal agreement with Colts general manager Chris Ballard to become Indianapolis’ new head coach.
“The rivalry is back on,” Ballard said as he left a news conference to announce the new search had begun.
But the Colts (1-3) have started slowly since Luck returned to action after more than a year away following shoulder surgery.
The Patriots (2-2) also had a modest start to the season, but may be turning a corner coming off a dominating 38-7 win over the Miami Dolphins .
Thursday is expected to mark receiver Julian Edelman’s season debut after he served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.
It’s just in time for Brady, who has struggled at times this season without a dependable receiver to go to on third down.
Edelman, who has been with the Patriots since 2009, also set out the 2017 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the preseason.
“I think we’ve played so much football together, I really have no doubt where he’s going to be at, what he’s capable of,” Brady said. “He’s been a great player for our team. I think everyone’s excited to have him back, and anytime you add great players, it’s going to help what we’re doing.”
Here are some things to watch for in Thursday’s game:
New England gave kicker Adam Vinatieri his NFL start back in 1996 when he beat out veteran Matt Bahr for the job.
Thursday night could be his final appearance in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Though he’s on the cusp of breaking Morten Andersen’s career scoring record and has shown no indication he’s slowing down, the reality is the 45-year-old Vinatieri signed a one-year contract during the offseason and there’s no assurance the Colts could be heading back to New England any time soon. Indy won’t play another round robin with the AFC East until 2022.
Not that the four-time Super Bowl champion has given it much thought.
“It very well could be. I guess every game could be your last game you know,” he said. “I just haven’t thought that far ahead.”
GRONK ON THE MEND
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski left in the second half of New England’s win over Miami after aggravating an ankle injury. He did not participate in the Patriots’ first practice of the week Tuesday.
Brady has had trouble getting the ball in Gronk’s hands over the past three games. He’s had just 10 catches for 110 yards and no touchdowns over that span. Gronk has only one touchdown reception on the season.
With a victory, Brady (225 wins) can tie Vinatieri (226) for the most wins by a player in NFL history. Brady enters the game three touchdowns shy of 500 regular-season touchdown passes. He trails only Manning (539) and Brett Favre (508).
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