- Associated Press - Thursday, November 18, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Let the debate begin.

A couple of weeks ago, Colts tight end Jacob Tamme was watching the Patriots play on television when he saw a surprising graphic pop up. It said New England had won more games over the last decade than any team in the NFL.

“I thought WE had that record,” Tamme said Wednesday with a smile.

Technically, he’s right.

NFL spokesman Corry Rush confirmed that official NFL stats only count regular-season numbers, meaning Indianapolis’ 115 regular-season victories from 2000-09 are considered the most in any decade in league history. New England, however, prefers to count postseason games _ the most meaningful of all _ and believes it had more overall wins (133 to the Colts’ 130) during the last decade.

Yes, they’re merely numbers, but they do demonstrate how tricky it can be to define success in today’s NFL _ and how heated this rivalry between former division foes can get. It resumes Sunday at New England.

“That’s what makes it fun, and I think that’s why both teams respect each other so much,” said Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, one of only two players on either team’s current roster who has been with both clubs. “But I don’t think that’s really important unless you’re sitting around a campfire drinking a beer.”

Judging by the ultimate measuring stick, it’s no contest. New England went 3-1 in Super Bowls during the last decade compared with 1-1 for the Colts.

If, however, you prefer consistency, well, things get a little more complex.

Indy (6-3) has a record seven straight 12-win seasons, it won 23 straight regular-season games _ breaking New England’s record _ and has missed the playoffs only once since 2000. New England missed the playoffs three times during that span, though the Pats do own one more division title (seven) than the Colts and have the NFL’s only undefeated regular season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

And you can forget about trying to persuade fans or officials in the respective organizations to concede defeat.

Last December, after the Colts pulled their starters early against the New York Jets in a game that ended Indy’s pursuit of perfection, team president Bill Polian explained that the Colts had done it partly because they had already achieved two of the records they wanted most _ longest winning streak and victories in a decade.

It didn’t take the Pats (7-2) long to argue they held that mark.

“I didn’t know that, but they definitely have an argument,” Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. “But to me, who really cares? When you’re retired, you can both say, ‘We had a great tenure.’”

The debate goes deeper than numbers.

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