Web Exclusive: Robert Mathis’s Most Memorable Colts Moments

Here, in his own words, the star pass-rusher and reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Year shares some of his standout memories from the past 11 seasons.

In “30 for 30,” a tribute to three decades of Indianapolis Colts football in the September 2014 issue of IM, Robert Mathis—the team’s team’s longest-tenured defensive player—picked his top three comebacks. But he went even deeper in the interview. Read on to find out what else the sack master likes to reminisce about.
January 21, 2007: AFC Championship, RCA Dome
“The game before The Game, versus the Patriots. Those guys had our number. We finally were able to play them in our house in a playoff game. We knew from throughout the years that the winner of the [regular-season game between the Colts and the Pats] was going to be the frontrunner for the playoffs. You did not want to be in Foxborough in January. We were just playing as hard as we could to get home for the playoff game. We were able to do that.
“Then [in the AFC Championship], the game started, and they jumped out on us, 20–6 at halftime. Our whole motto was ‘This is our time.’ It was kind of hard to keep that going when you’re down 20–6 to a New England team that’s always bounced you in the playoffs. But faith is a powerful thing, and we were just hell-bent on getting this win. We were going to get this win.
“It’s extremely difficult [playing against Tom Brady]. He’s one of the top three QBs in the league. There are a lot of good guys, but he’s been doing it year in and year out, for years. You have to bring your A-game. You can’t beat him on a fluke or [hope for] a bad day from the Patriots. They are going to come in well-coached and ready to play.
“Nobody was saying much of anything [at halftime]. It was pretty much on Coach Dungy the whole time. He was just trying to get his team motivated. We were shell-shocked. This was our time, and to be down by so much that fast, it was something. He spent most of halftime just rallying the troops and getting our minds focused. We came out, scored quick, and got back on track, and guys started believing we could pull it out.”

February 4, 2007: Super Bowl XLI, Dolphin Stadium in Miami
“It was our first Super Bowl, the biggest game of the year, and there’s only one team that’s going to be happy with how the season ends. And that’s the Super Bowl champion.
“We were a dome team playing outside for the Super Bowl. It was raining, monsoon season. Not on a dry, fast surface, but raining and on grass. Things that people said about us—we had to exorcise a lot of those demons.
“[The defense had] hit a switch come playoff time. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. As long as I’ve been playing the game, I’ve never seen anything like that. There was some concern about our defense. It was something to work out. But we got together—against the run, the pass, everything. We tightened the grip on everything.
“And we were able to do it against a physical Chicago Bears defense and a power running game. That particular year we had given up 375 yards in one game against the Jaguars, which I think was a record. Everything was stacked against us. We just banded together and got that win. And we’re locked in forever in immortality!”
February 7, 2010: Super Bowl XLIV, Sun Life Stadium in Miami
“My first thought [about Saints coach Sean Payton’s call to start the second half with an onside kick]: They are scared, and this is a desperation move. I didn’t think a whole lot of it. It was about field position, and they stole some possession from us. They were able to go down and score. I felt like we were in good shape and just had to get the job done. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Oh man, it is a bad feeling. It’s an accomplishment to have made it to the Super Bowl, but it is a terrible feeling. You play 23 or 24 games and come up one game short of every team’s goal, and that’s to be the one team standing at the end. To see the other team’s confetti flying and hitting you in the face, coming down, and you get ushered off the field by some intern from the production studio or something like that. It was not a good feeling. You can’t just sneeze at the fact that you made it there, but winning the Super Bowl is quite different than just being there. It leaves an imprint that you want to go back and finish the job, and that’s my mindset right now.”
January 4, 2014: AFC Wild Card Game, Lucas Oil Stadium
“We came back, and we were able to pull that game out. It was a scene for No. 12 [Andrew Luck]. He matured and led his team to a victory of that caliber, that magnitude, on that stage. We had beaten the team pretty good earlier in the year. [In this game] they jumped out on us, and we were just scratching our heads trying to figure out what the heck happened. But we were able to pull out the win in very dramatic fashion. Luck and Peyton are both students of the game. They both approach their craft very seriously. Luck is a great competitor when it’s time to play football.”
View a gallery of Robert Mathis photos from his exclusive IM photo shoot.
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Mathis’s picks for the best three comebacks during his Colts career appear in “30 for 30,” a tribute to three decades of Indianapolis Colts football in the September 2014 issue of IM.

Photos by Tony Valainis