New England Patriots

By Matt McCarthy,

All this week at, we’re taking a look back at the most memorable divisional round playoff games the Patriots have played in the last two decades.

Yesterday, we remembered the Patriots comeback against the Chargers in 2006. On Monday, we relived the 2014 thriller between the Patriots and the Ravens.

Today, we look back at the 2004 divisional game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The ’04 Colts had one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history and had put up 49 points in their Wild Card win over the Broncos the week before. The Patriots, on the other hand, were depleted in the secondary. Ty Law and Tyrone Poole were done for the season, two rookies were starting in their place, and wide receiver Troy Brown was playing nickel corner.

None of that matter. The Patriots won 20-3 in one of the most impressive defense performances of the Bill Belichick era.

Key moments:

This game was the encapsulation of what made the early-2000’s Patriots unbeatable in big games. Their defense always seemed to come through with game-altering plays.

With the Patriots leading 6-0 in the second quarter, Tedy Bruschi forced a fumble by ripping the ball out of Dominic Rhodes’ hands, stalling the Colts in New England territory.

FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 16: Tedy Bruschi #54 of the New England Patriots recovers a fumble from the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2005 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Colts 20-3. (Photo By Elsa/Getty Images)

The Colts almost found the end zone on their next drive, but Eugene Wilson nearly intercepted Manning on the goal line and the Patriots forced Indy to settle for 3 points.

They wouldn’t score after that.

The Pats offense imposed their will on the Colts when it mattered the most. Corey Dillon had his signature game in a Patriots uniform, powering two long scoring drives to seal the game in the second half. The Pats went 87 yards over 8:16 to kill off much of the third quarter, before Dillon and company took 7:24 to go 94 yards to take a 17-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

Runningback Corey Dillon of the New England Patriots during the AFC Division playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on January 16, 2005. The Patriots beat the Colts 20-3 to advance to the AFC Championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Dillon and the Patriots defense kept Manning off the field all night. The Colts never stood a chance. The 2004 divisional game was the perfect embodiment of complimentary football.

Final stats:


Tom Brady: 18/27, 144 yards, 1 touchdown pass, 1 rushing touchdown.

Corey Dillon: 23 carries, 144 yards. 5 catches, 17 yards.

David Givens: 4 catches, 26 yards, 1 touchdown.

Tedy Bruschi: 2 fumbles recovered.

Adam Vinatieri: 2/2 field goals (24, 31 yards)


Peyton Manning: 27/42, 238 yards, 1 interception, 1 fumble.

Edgerrin James: 14 carries, 39 yards.

Marvin Harrison: 5 catches, 44 yards.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.