Once upon a time, Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots games were must-see television. A Peyton Manning-Tom Brady matchup is about as good as it gets for those who enjoy seeing all-time great quarterbacking and extremely slow foot speed. Brady won eight of the head-to-heads. Manning won four. The rivalry was never truly equitable, but was enjoyable.
Then Manning went to the Broncos and the shine wore off. Enter Andrew Luck, at one time the heir apparent to AFC supremacy. The shine was never restored. Headed into last night’s game in Foxboro, Luck was 0-5 against Brady, including two blowout losses in the playoffs. The young buck kept struggling with injuries. The old hand kept winning — or almost winning — Super Bowls. The biggest rivalry involving the Colts and Patriots since Peyton Manning left was the NFL vs. Deflated Footballs.
Despite all this, Colts general manager Chris Ballard stoked the flames of passion last February when he bit off more than his franchise was capable of chewing.
It does not take a team of fact-checkers to sit here this morning, in the wake of the Patriots’ dominating 38-24 victory, to rate the claim false. The rivalry is not back on. This is as much of a rivalry as windshield vs. bug or lawnmower vs. grass.
Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes, including the 500th of his career. Sony Michel flirted with a 100-yard rushing performance. The Patriots defense forced three turnovers. The outcome was never in doubt. More than that, the game wasn’t very interesting for a non-partisan.
There’s bad blood, sure. The McDaniels messiness and Deflategate keep the juices flowing. But while the Colts have deep disdain for their Northeastern rivals, perhaps it’s worth wondering if that’s just jealousy. And the truth of the matter may be that the Patriots don’t think about Indianapolis at all.
Perhaps New England’s authentic reaction to hearing Ballard say the rivalry is back on is to stare at nothing and search for answers. Perhaps that’s what Gronkowski was doing here.
The Colts-Patriots rivalry is not back. If anything, it’s canceled until further notice. Look no further than last night. Or, you know what, look at the ledger and its one-sideness. The truth is stark and unavoidable, no matter how hard Ballard and others want to make it happen.