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On This Date in Sports October 31, 1988: Dickerson Runs Over Broncos

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Monday Night Football comes to the Hoosier Dome for the first time as the Indianapolis Colts host their first primetime game since the Mayflower vans left Baltimore behind. Led by Eric Dickerson, the Colts run out to a 45-10 halftime lead and gallop to a 55-23 win. On the first anniversary of the trade that brought him to the Colts, Dickerson scores four touchdowns and rushes for 159 yards.

Upon arriving in Indianapolis in 1984, there were doubts that the NFL could make it in Indiana, as they had trouble filling the Hoosier Dome in the early years after sneaking out of Baltimore. While their old fans pined for their return, the Colts struggled in their new home. Things began to turn around for the Colts in 1987. As the NFL returned from a strike and scab games, the Colts made a stunning Halloween trade, picking up Eric Dickerson from the Los Angeles Rams, while Cornelius Bennett, the unsigned number one pick, ended up in Buffalo as part of a three-team deal. Reunited with Ron Meyer, his coach at SMU, Dickers rushed for 1,011 yards in nine games; the Colts posted a record of 9-6 in 1987 and won the AFC East. The Colts would not get a home playoff game, as the third seed at the time played on the road in the Divisional Round, losing to the Cleveland Browns 38-21.

With rookie Chris Chandler a third-round pick from Washington, start at quarterback, the Colts got off to a slow start in 1988, losing five of their first six games, including a 23-17 Monday Night loss to the Browns in Week 3 on the road. Heading into their first Monday Night home game, the Colts began to turn things around, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-31 and shutting out the San Diego Chargers 16-0 and went into the game at 3-5.

Led by Dan Reeves, the Denver Broncos, coming off back-to-back losses in the Super Bowl, also landed a big running back in the off-season, picking up Tony Dorsett, who ranked second all-time in rushing after a decade with the Dallas Cowboys. However, defensive struggles befuddled the Broncos in 1988, as they held a 4-4 record going into their Halloween Game at the Hoosier Dome on Monday Night Football.

With the Colts' lone playoff game coming on the road, there was no doubt that this was the biggest game since the team moved to Indianapolis as luncheon with announcers Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf sold out earlier in the day. As fans entered the dome, they were given masks of the announcers and had them on as the cameras scanned the crowd early in the game as Indianapolis looked to prove they were worthy of having an NFL team. As the game began, the noise in the dome was higher than it had ever been at the Hoosier Dome. Eric Dickerson took the crowd's energy and had one of the best games of his career as he scored three touchdowns in the first quarter, on runs of 12, 11, and 1 yard, to give Indianapolis an early 21-0 lead. Dickerson and the Colts continued to trample Denver’s defense in the second quarter as they got a 31-yard field goal by Dean Biasucci. On the next series, Eric Dickerson found the end zone again, on a 41-yard run making it 31-0. John Elway and the Broncos finally got a positive drive going, with Steve Sewell catching a two-yard touchdown pass to erase any chance of a shutout. The Colts brought in Gary Hogeboom to run the wishbone on the next possession as he hit Bill Brooks on a 53-yard scoring play. After a 27-yard field goal by barefoot kicker Rich Karlis, the Colts' onslaught continued as Clarence Verdin caught a 40-yard pass from Chris Chandler. Up 45-10 at the half, Ron Meyer pulled in the reins on the Colts attack as Dickerson rested most of the second half, finishing with 159 yards on 21 carries. Biasucci had the only score in the third quarter, kicking a 27-yard field goal. In the fourth quarter, the Colts extended the lead to 55-10 on a four-yard run by Albert Bentley. The Broncos would score twice in garbage time as Gary Kubiak connected with Vance Johnson and Steve Sewell for scores of 7 and 48 yards after John Elway was pulled after completing 15 of 27 passes for 157 yards as the Colts won 55-23.

Both teams were 4-5 after the game; the Colts would finish the season with a record of 9-7, narrowly missing the playoffs. Eric Dickerson would lead the NFL in rushing with 1,659 yards becoming the first member of the Colts to win the rushing title since Alan Ameche in 1955. The Broncos, meanwhile, finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. It was the only time in a four-year stretch they failed to reach the Super Bowl.