The first regular-season game in a new stadium was going to be a big event anyway.
Real, real big.
That the Colts will be playing a familiar opponent – and that their head coaches are good friends who happened to make history together – will make it even bigger.
And playing at night? On national television?
Well, when you add all of the elements together, Colts head coach Tony Dungy said Monday afternoon, what you have is an opening game of the 2008 regular season likely to be remembered for a long, long time.
The Colts, who have opened the NFL regular season on national television the past four seasons, will do so again this season, playing the Chicago Bears in an NBC Sunday Night Football game on Sunday, Sept. 7.
The game will be the regular-season opener for Lucas Oil Stadium, the new state-of-the-art stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
“It’s going to be great,” Dungy said, the day the game was announced at the league meetings, which are being held this week at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla.
“Opening our stadium, we’re all looking forward to that, and it’s kind of a rematch of Super Bowl XLI. I think no matter who it would have been opening up that first week of the season would be great, but going against the Bears, I think it will be tremendous,” Dungy said.
The game will be televised nationally on NBC as part of the NFL’s Kickoff Weekend, and will mark the fifth consecutive season the Colts have opened the regular season in prime-time as part of the Kickoff Weekend schedule.
Indianapolis opened the 2004 regular season at New England on a Thursday night. They then opened 2005 and 2006 with victories at Baltimore and the New York Giants, respectively, before playing host to the 2007 Thursday night opener. The Colts beat the New Orleans Saints in the 2007 opener.
“I think our players appreciate the fact that we do get that opportunity,” Dungy said. “It makes you want to come out and play well.”
The Colts beat the Bears, 29-17, in Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Fla., in February 2006. In that game, Bears coach Lovie Smith and Dungy — close friends since working on the same staff in Tampa Bay from 1996-2000 – became the first African-American head coaches in Super Bowl history.