Remembering 2006 and Super Bowl XLI: Jeff Saturday

Photo of the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl XLI ring.

Photo of the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl XLI ring.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The bunch that inspired a frigid procession through Downtown Feb. 5, 2007 after delivering the Lombardi Trophy to the Circle City returns this weekend.

In recognition of the 10th anniversary of the Indianapolis Colts’ 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, the team will honor its world champions at halftime of Sunday’s game with the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. More than 40 players and coaches have RSVP’d they’ll attend.

In the days leading up to the reunion, some prominent figures share memories of the organization’s first world championship in three decades.

JEFF SATURDAY: The trust factor

Just the way we came together is the thing I appreciate the most. If you remember Jacksonville, we got beat down. They ran all over us and we couldn’t score. Everybody had kind of written us off. I remember just coming back in the locker room and the meeting room on Monday, and just getting real. It was ‘Hey look, we did a lot of this to ourselves. We’re in the wrong spot. We’re not being disciplined. We’re not doing the things we had done and this is what it shows.’

We played a team we should have beaten and we get blown out. The only way to fix is to self-correct. It wasn’t an opponent issue. It was a ‘self’ issue. I just remember coming back and no one giving us a chance against Kansas City. ‘Couldn’t stop the run. There’s no way they could stop them. They’re too physically dominating and we’re not going to be able to run it on them.’

And then look at what we did the whole playoffs. Not only did we stop the run, but we ran the ball as efficiently as we had all year. We just imposed our will on teams week-in and week-out, whether it was Kansas City, Baltimore, New England and obviously even against Chicago in the Super Bowl.

Those are the things I look at from that year the most fondly. When no one else believed in us, we came together and found a way. That was the first time people had doubted us. In years past we may have been considered favorites. At that point, people were saying the window was closed, and how sweet it was to kick that thing open.

We had a reputation of being a certain type of team (a finesse style). Everything was a ‘check with me’ in the run game. We were always going to get the best look. We were always going to do different things. When we got to playoff football, it was ‘Let’s pin our ears back and go hit ‘em in the face.’ As you look back, there’s a lot of pride in that, especially as an offensive lineman. I love looking back on those games and the group you did it with. I have a picture in my office with Tarik (Glenn), Jake (Scott), myself, Ryan Lilja and (Ryan) Diem sitting on the bench in Baltimore. I think back to watching (the Ravens) giving the (pre-game) introduction. I think they introduced like 17 or 18 players on defense and the place was going nuts. It was like a WWE match. Then we just systematically weren’t going to be denied. We ran the ball effectively and controlled both lines of scrimmage. I can’t tell you how good that felt. Even though we didn’t punch it in the end zone, we got 15 points and Vinny stepped up.

It wasn’t pretty, but it felt pretty if that makes sense. We stuck it to them. The thing was, everybody knew what was coming. It wasn’t like we’re up there checking around. We literally just lined up and ran that ball at ‘em. We knew that at some point we just had to make it happen, and that’s what we did.

Those are the things you look back on and you go, ‘That team came together, and it was a team.’ We were arm-and-arm, locked in and depending on each other and trusting each other. How sweet it is when it works out that way.

Whether it was ‘Hey, we’re going to throw it. We’re going to run it. We need our defense to make a stop in the run game or pick off a ball to finish it out,’ whatever it was, we knew that the other guy was going to make the play. We had complete confidence. It’s rare to have that, where you just know that the guy either beside you or on the other side is going to make the play. You had full confidence it was going to happen. It’s that total trust and dependence on each other that super-cedes the individual and goes to the greater cause. That was just awesome.

We’re on that field (in South Florida) and grabbing that (Lombardi Trophy) and hoisting it up, it was amazing. Your whole family and everybody is just running around in the rain. Even in the RCA Dome after the (AFC) championship game, people are just going nuts. The hugs and just the complete exhaustion because everybody had put so much into it; just how everybody collectively felt, so involved and so tied in. You knew it was a full team from the front office to the equipment guys, the trainers, the coaches. Everybody played their role and did it to the fullest.

There are few seasons in your life where everything comes together and you get a chance to hoist it, and when you hoist it, it meant something. That team wasn’t our best team. There were a few others that were better, maybe two or three. But for that one to be the one, that’s what makes it so special. Everybody was willing to lay down their individual goals for the betterment of the team. That’s what set us apart.

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 21:  Jeff Saturday #63 of the Indianapolis Colts is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the third quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots on January 21, 2007 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – JANUARY 21: Jeff Saturday #63 of the Indianapolis Colts is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the third quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots on January 21, 2007 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The rest of the story: Finesse gave way to force as the Colts imposed their will during the four-game playoff run. While Peyton Manning was dealing with inconsistencies – three touchdown passes, seven interceptions, a 70.5 passer rating – the offense leaned heavily running backs rookie Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, and a dominant offensive line. It averaged 151 rushing yards in the four games, a massive increase over the regular season (110.1).

Addai produced the game-winning TD in the AFC title game against the Patriots with a 3-yard TD through the heart of the defense – and behind Saturday’s pancake block of Vince Wilford – while Addai and Rhodes combined to rush for 190 yards and one TD against the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

And who can forget Saturday contributing a fumble recovery to the 38-34 exorcising win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship game? He covered Rhodes’ fumble in the end zone, tying the game at 28-all early in the fourth quarter.

“I used to tell the offensive linemen, ‘Dude, if I ever score a touchdown, I’m going to take off my pads and I’m going to do the freekin’ worm in the end zone. I’m going to do this dance. It’s going to be special,”’ Saturday said. “I remember all of my teammates coming at me. I just started jumping up and down. I looked like an idiot.

“I get to the sideline and everybody is so fired up. I’m fired up. I’m looking up at the JumboTron, watching myself jumping up and down, and I’m looking at the defense. You could just see it. It was a marked change.”

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51