10 Greatest Colts Teams of All Time

Controversy aside, the franchise has fielded great teams in both Baltimore and Indianapolis

In 1984, the Baltimore Colts left their hometown in the middle of the night for their new city of Indianapolis. That move remains one of the most controversial in the history of pro football. Fans and former players cut ties with the franchise and while Baltimoreans' have opened their hearts to the Ravens, their hatred for the Colts remains strong. 

 

Nevertheless, the Colts franchise still covers both cities and when evaluating the best teams in its history, you have to look at the squads fielded from both Maryland and Indiana. Here are the 10 best ever. (Note: During the Peyton Manning era, the Colts fielded some very talented teams with great records that were eliminated early in the playoffs. For this list, I focused on how close they came to winning a championship.)

 

10. 2014 Indianapolis Colts

Finished: Lost to New England Patriots 45-7 in AFC Championship Game

Regular Season Record: 11-5

The Andrew Luck-led Colts swept their division and made their only AFC Championship Game appearance of the post-Peyton Manning era. However, they were no match for the Patriots in Foxborough.

 

9. 1964 Baltimore Colts

Finished Lost to Cleveland Browns 27-0 in NFL Championship

Regular Season Record: 12-2

The Colts easily won the NFL Western Conference but were throttled by the last Browns team to ever win a league championship. 

 

8. 1971 Baltimore Colts

Finished: Lost to Miami Dolphins 21-0 in AFC Championship Game

Regular Season Record: 10-4

The defending Super Bowl champions lost their four regular-season games by a total of 15 points and returned to the conference championship. There, the Colts' run of greatness came to an end against a Dolphins team that was coming into its own.

 

7. 2003 Indianapolis Colts

Finished: Lost to New England Patriots 24-14 in AFC Championship Game

Regular Season Record: 12-4

Peyton Manning won the first of his five league MVP awards and led the Colts to the AFC Championship Game, where they were shut down by a Patriots team in the midst of 21-game winning streak.

 

6. 1958 Baltimore Colts

Finished: Beat New York Giants 23-17 in NFL Championship

Regular Season Record: 9-3

The Colts won their first-ever championship and took the NFL to the next level. Facing the Giants at Yankee Stadium on NBC, Baltimore came back from being down 14-3 to tie the game 17-17 at the end of regulation. This led to the first sudden-death overtime in league history, which Baltimore won on a one-yard Alan Ameche touchdown run. The excitement of the game led to increased interest in pro football and the rest is history.

 

5. 1959 Baltimore Colts

Finished: Beat New York Giants 31-16 in NFL Championship

Regular Season Record: 9-3

Johnny Unitas was in the midst of his 47 games with a touchdown pass streak and became the first person to throw 30 touchdowns in a season. He capped the magnificent season with the Colts' second straight title.

 

4. 1968 Baltimore Colts

Finished: Lost to New York Jets 16-7 in Super Bowl III

Regular Season Record: 13-1

Joe Namath reached mythical status because he guaranteed that his Jets would beat the Colts and made good on it. One of the reasons it became the stuff of legend was because this Colts team, which beat the Cleveland Browns 34-0 in the NFL Championship, was so good.

 

3. 2009 Indianapolis Colts

Finished: Lost to New Orleans Saints 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV

Regular Season Record: 14-2

The Colts started the season 14-0 before head coach Jim Caldwell made the controversial decision to rest his starters. They then blew through their playoff competition to make their second Super Bowl in four years. But thanks in part to a gutsy onside kick by the Saints to start the second half, Indianapolis came up short in the Super Bowl.

 

2. 1970 Baltimore Colts

Finished: Beat Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V

Regular Season Record: 11-2-1

Baltimore dispatched Cincinnati and Oakland to return to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years. The Colts then won the sloppiest Super Bowl ever played to exorcise some of their demons from losing to the New York Jets two years earlier.

 

1. 2006 Indianapolis Colts

Finished: Beat Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI

Regular Season Record: 12-4

After years of futility, the Colts finally put together a Super Bowl run. They played gutsy defense against Kansas City and Baltimore and then won a shootout with New England in one of the most exciting AFC Championship Games ever played. Peyton Manning's first title culminated with a win in the only Super Bowl ever played in the rain.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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