Colts in Good Company

Keyshawn Johnson recently called the Colts the worst 14-0 team ever, but only three teams in the history of the NFL have started out 14-0. How do the Colts measure up to the two others? We take a look at how the 2009 Colts compare with the 2007 Patriots and the 1972 Dolphins.

Once the New Orleans Saints lost to the Cowboys last Saturday night, the 2009 Colts joined the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 New England Patriots as one of three teams to start the regular season 14-0.  Let's take a look at how Indianapolis stacks up against its two partners in perfection...

Through 14 games, the Colts have scored 394 points and allowed 248 points, with a point differential of 146 points.  According to the Expected Win/Loss statistic on ProFootballReference.com, they should be 11-3 (their Expected W/L is actually 10.5-3.5, but I rounded up/down), given their schedule thus far and their points for versus points against ratio.  A deeper explanation of the statistic can be found here.

Through 14 games, the 1972 Dolphins finished with 385 points scored, 171 points allowed (214 differential), and an Expected Win/Loss record of 12-2 (12.2-1.8).  The Patriots scored the best in these metrics, with 523 points scored, 232 points allowed, and a 299 point differential.  They also fared the best in the Expected Win/Loss category, as they scored a 14-2 record for the 2007 season (13.8-2.2).

In terms of the regular season, the Colts scored the worst of the three teams, though many football historians point to the fact that the 1972 Dolphins won a lot of close games and played an easy schedule, while the 2007 Patriots played a mediocre schedule and won a lot of games in blowout fashion.

That Dolphins squad won eight games by two touchdowns or more, including two shutout victories of 52-0 (against the Patriots) and 16-0, while the 2007 Patriots opened up the season by slaughtering most of their opponents and establishing a record-smashing pace that evened out a bit by the end of the season, but ultimately resulted in that team setting a number of NFL regular-season records. That edition of the Patriots beat their first eight opponents by 14 or more points until they squeaked by the Colts on Sunday night in Week 9.  For the season, they tallied up 11 wins of two touchdowns or more, with ten of those coming in the first 14 games.  Indianapolis has not breezed to a blowout win since they beat the Rams 42-6 in Week 7 and have had to stage seven fourth-quarter comebacks in their first 14 games.

All three teams withstood their fair share of drama and showed tremendous resiliency throughout their 14-0 start, but history will most likely remember the Colts as the least impressive of these teams, especially over time.  History has not been kind to a Miami squad that was the only unbeaten, untied team in the history of the league and, of course, recent NFL historians can easily point to the fact that New England fell short of their ultimate goal by losing in the championship game.

There are two things to take away from this information:

  1. As Indianapolis already knows, it's not how you start, it's how you finish.

  2. As long as the Colts win another championship, they don't care how history remembers them.

The interesting thing about the postseason fates of the Dolphins and Patriots is that both teams played close games in the playoffs even though they had a number of runaway games in the regular season.  New England didn't beat a team by two touchdowns in the 2007 playoffs and Miami won their postseason games by six, four, and seven points respectively.

In the postseason, the margin for error becomes smaller, the stakes become higher, and the competition becomes fiercer.  Perhaps it's for the best that Indianapolis hasn't had a ton of easy victories considering that their postseason schedule will be full of tight games that they will need to win in the fourth quarter.  It's possible that the Patriots were so busy sitting on the sidelines or running up the score in the fourth quarter in 2007 that they lost their killer instinct.

But, ultimately, it comes down to winning championships.  It doesn't really matter how the Colts get to 14-0 or 15-0 or 16-0, or hopefully 19-0, the point is that they get there.  There are a number of players on this team that understand that regular season success generally doesn't have much to do with winning it all.  They probably understand that concept better than anyone else in the league.

They need to take care of business, stay focused, and keep their eyes on the prize.  Historians can say what they like, as long as they also have to acknowledge that the 2009 Indianapolis Colts won Super Bowl XLIV.


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