Then the Colts' players and coaches, with the New Orleans Saints staring across the field, tried to close the most glorious chapter in franchise history and start a new one with fresh words, actions and deeds. For starters, the Colts posted a 41-10 victory.
"There was a lot of emotion in our city the last couple of days, and today, just even coming over to the stadium, you could feel it with our fans," Colts coach Tony said. "The game was just a great way to cap all that off."
And so it began last night, this 2007 NFL season that will stretch over the next five months en route to Arizona, where two teams will meet for Super Bowl XLII.
Who wants it more? It is an interesting question, indeed.
Could it be the team that has been to the edge in recent years, like New England or Pittsburgh? Or could it be one of those lovable losers from the National Football Conference that can get to the show but can't get over the edge? You know who you are.
The Colts know, better than anyone, just how satisfying and rewarding it is to win a Super Bowl. If the memory had begun to fade even the slightest bit after seven months, last night certainly refocused it.
Hours before the 8:40 kickoff, fans filled the streets that lead to Monument Circle, the beautiful epicenter of Indianapolis. There, they listened to Faith Hill, a noted Tennessee Titans season-ticket holder and self-described Saints fan. They also watched American Idol sensation Kelly Clarkson and some band named Hinder.
At 7:55, nearly 80 percent of the Dome was full. The fans stood as Indiana icon John Mellencamp took a makeshift stage at midfield and sang one song, "Small Town." Then, as the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" blared over the loudspeaker, the Colts' players ran through an inflatable replica of their championship rings.
Earlier in the week, Dungy said he hoped his players wouldn't be on the field for the celebration. He thought it would detract from their mission at hand - to win their 15th September game in 17 attempts since Dungy had become coach.
Suffice it to say the Colts don't lose in September.
Last night was no different. They rolled up 452 yards of offense as Peyton Manning completed 18 of 30 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns.
The Colts moved down the field on their second possession with a balance of Manning passes and Joseph Addai runs. On second and 6 from the Saints' 27-yard line, Manning zoned in on Philadelphia native Marvin Harrison.
Manning and Harrison make up the most prolific quarterback-receiver tandem in NFL history. Harrison got an early step on cornerback Jason David, then cut inside and stretched out to catch Manning's pass in the back of the end zone to give Indianapolis a 7-0 lead. It was the tandem's 107th career touchdown hookup.
David made amends in the second half when he stripped Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, picked up the fumble, and streaked 55 yards for a TD.
After the teams exchanged field goals, Manning again found Harrison in single coverage with Mike McKenzie. Harrison made it to the Saints' 2-yard line and the Colts scored two plays later for a 17-10 lead. They made it 24-10 when Manning hit Wayne with a 29-yard pass in the third quarter.
Indianapolis intercepted Drew Brees twice. Matt Giordano returned the second pick 83 yards for the game's final touchdown.
Who wants it more? In a few months, we'll find out. But the Colts made an awfully good argument last night.
Contact staff writer Ashley Fox
at 215-854-5064 or email@example.com.