Turnabout was fair play. On the drive’s second play, Bradie James stripped Colts star wide receiver Marvin Harrison of the football. Jay Ratliff fell on the football to give Dallas the ball back, with which they did nothing other than go three-and-out.
The Colts had a ten-play drive on their next possession, and survived a scare when DeMarcus Ware came unblocked on Peyton Manning for a brutal sack that forced a fumble. Thankfully, Colts left tackle Tarek Glenn recovered to keep the drive alive for another seven plays, as defensive end Jay Ratliff sacked Manning and forced a fumble that Bradie James recovered, an inverse of what happened with Marvin Harrison on the previous drive.
Again, the Cowboys only had the ball for three plays, as quarterback Tony Romo threw a pick straight into the arms of Colts cornerback Nick Harper at the Colts’ own 9 yard line. Harper lost four yards on the return. From what it appeared, #9 wasn’t ready to play in a big game like this. The Panthers, Redskins, and Cardinals were more his speed, not the 9-0 Colts. No wonder head coach Bill Parcells stashed him on the practice squad and as the field goal holder all these years.
The Dallas defense kept their ground though. On a 3rd and 8 from his own five, Peyton Manning zipped a dart to Marvin Harrison, who couldn’t break past the first down marker to convert. Three-and-out — Cowboys football, yet again.
On this drive, possibly due to its starting point of the Colts 49, Dallas would get its chance to draw first blood, even if it is was in the form of a needle prick field goal kicked by former Colts kicker, Mike Vanderjagt. The 43-yard try sailed right of the upright, and all the ex-Colts kicker, who cost Indianapolis a chance to beat the Steelers in last year’s playoffs, could do was laugh.
The Colts got a boost on the next drive when Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears roughed up Peyton Manning and drew a 15-yard penalty. On top of Marvin Harrison’s 16-yard catch, the Colts added another 15 yards for in essence a 31-yard gain. They were now in Dallas territory at their 33 yard line. And there wasn’t any stopping them. Joseph Addai, rookie runningback from LSU, galloped for 17 yards on the right side. They were now in the Cowboys’ red zone. Addai again for 3 yards. Addai for 6 yards, and the option to penalize Dallas 5 yards should Addai’s run had failed. Addai for another 6.
They were inside the Cowboys’ 10. Addai for 4.
They were at the goal line.