After a three-game road trip, the new identity Dallas Cowboys had a home date with the 9-0 Indianapolis Colts. The proposition was daunting, even with their hot shot mid-season replacement at quarterback. For the third time since 2003, Peyton Manning’s Colts were 9-0 and the two-time NFL MVP had thrown 18 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. It seemed the Colts, who had won 14 straight games to begin their last season, were on pace for a similar start.
At 5-4, the Dallas Cowboys needed to make progress and put together a winning streak if they were to make the 2006 postseason. Since Week 3, they were in a funk of winning one and then losing one. It was only their winning streak from Week 2 to Week 3 that gave them the 5-4 edge. Even with the insertion of fourth-year undrafted Tony Romo over Drew Bledsoe in Week 7, the Cowboys were still on the win-loss seesaw. Things didn’t look good for their defense either, as veteran pass rusher Greg Ellis, an outside linebacker in the 3-4, was lost for the season due to a torn Achilles suffered in last week’s 27-10 victory over the Cardinals.
For the Colts, there were no challengers in the AFC South, but the Cowboys were in the middle of the pack of the NFC East. The Giants were 6-3 heading into this weekend, and the Eagles were also 5-4 like Dallas. The Redskins were facing playoff contention elimination at 3-6; their fate was all but sealed. For the Cowboys, they needed a win to stay competitive.
It was Peyton Manning’s first trip to Dallas after having played the Cowboys twice in Indianapolis. Dallas would take the opening possession, and sustain a five-play drive that came to an abrupt end when Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney sacked quarterback Tony Romo and forced a fumble. Colts linebacker Cato June recovered to give Peyton Manning and the offense their first possession at their own 49.