ABC'S NFL "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL"
SPECIAL KICK-OFF OPENER
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9
9:00 P.M., ET
"NFL OPENING KICK-OFF PRESENTED BY AMERIQUEST"
8:00 P.M., ET
ABC TELEVISION NETWORK
ABC's NFL "Monday Night Football," the most successful and longest-running primetime sports series, begins its 35th anniversary season with a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game, as NFL co-MVP Peyton Manning leads the Indianapolis Colts into Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Kick-off for the NFL season opener is THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, at 9:00 p.m., ET, on the ABC Television Network.
The 2003 MNF regular season continues on MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, as the NFC champion Carolina Panthers host Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.
Preceding the game will be an hour-long special on ABC, "NFL Opening Kick-off presented by Ameriquest" (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET), which will salute the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and feature a star-studded musical lineup, with performances from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and Jacksonville, Florida, site of Super Bowl XXXIX.
The show will pay tribute to the 2003 Super Bowl champions and include performances from Gillette Stadium by MARY J. BLIGE, DESTINY'S CHILD, ELTON JOHN, TOBY KEITH and LENNY KRAVITZ. JESSICA SIMPSON will perform from Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville, where the next Super Bowl champion will be crowned. The special will air following the game in the Rocky Mountain and West Coast time zones.
Emmy Award-winning announcer Al Michaels is now in his 19th consecutive season as the play-by-play voice of "Monday Night Football." Michaels, one of television's most respected journalists, has appeared on live, primetime, over-the-air television more than anyone in the history of the medium, with the approximate total number of hours now approaching 2,000.
Joining him for his third season on MNF is the legendary John Madden. Madden recently won his unprecedented 14th Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality/Sports Event Analyst.
New to the MNF team this year is sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, who has been the courtside reporter for ABC's coverage of the NBA Finals the last two seasons.
MICHAELS AND MADDEN MOST POPULAR:
Al Michaels and John Madden were voted the No. 1 favorite NFL announcing team by a TV Guide poll. They were selected No. 1 by 47% of the country. Their closest competitors were the Fox team of Joe Buck, Chris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman, with 24%.
Additionally, in a Sports Illustrated year-long poll to find America's favorite sportscaster, the magazine polled readers from each state, asking among other questions, "Who is your favorite announcer?" "Monday Night Football" analyst John Madden was voted No 1 in 39 states and No. 2 in 10 states. In all, Madden and partner Al Michaels were voted the top two most popular sportscasters in America.
NFL SEASON PREMIERE:
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Indianapolis Colts (12-4, 1st Place in AFC South)
The Colts won their division for the first time since 1999, when they were the AFC East champions. The high-powered offense is led by NFL co-MVP Peyton Manning, who led the NFL by passing for 4,267 yards and was second with 29 touchdowns. Manning's prime target is WR Marvin Harrison, who caught 94 passes for 1,272 yards and 10 touchdowns. RB Edgerrin James returned to form last season following a knee injury and rushed for 1,259 yards and 11 touchdowns. Defensively the Colts are led by DE Dwight Freeney. The former Syracuse star paced the team with 11 sacks.
The Colts are 13-10 all-time on "Monday Night Football" (8-3 at home, 5-7 on the road). Last year's MNF game against the Buccaneers was arguably the greatest comeback in NFL history. The Colts became the first team ever to win a game in which they trailed by 21 points with less than four minutes left in the game. The Colts will also appear on MNF on November 8, when they host Randy Moss and the Minnesota Vikings.
New England Patriots (14-2, 1st Plce in AFC East, Super Bowl XXXVIII Champions)
The Patriots started the season with a 31-0 loss to the Bills at Buffalo and then won 15 of their last 16 regular season games, before defeating Tennessee and Indianapolis in the playoffs on their way to defeating the Carolina Panthers 32-29 to win their second Super Bowl championship in three years. They did all this without a 1,000 yard rusher or a 1,000 yard receiver. Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady had a great year at QB, throwing for 3,620 yards and 23 touchdowns. Defensively the Patriots were led by cornerbacks Tyrone Poole and Ty Law, who each had six interceptions.
The Patriots are 10-19 all-time on "Monday Night Football." This is their first of three appearances on ABC this season. They play the Chiefs in Kansas City on November 22 and travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins on December 20.
The Patriots and Colts will meet for the 66th time. The teams squared off in last season's AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, with the Patriots winning 24-14, and also played in a memorable regular-season shootout last November in Foxboro, with the Patriots winning 38-34. The Patriots and the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts rivalry is nothing new. The two teams played twice each year from 1970 to 2001 as members of the AFC East, with the exception of the 1982 strike year. New England has had more success against the Colts than any other team in the NFL, with the Patriots' .631 winning percentage ranking as their highest against any team that they've played more than 10 times. New England is 15-4 against Indianapolis since 1993, and has won 12 of the series' last 14 games, including the last four in a row dating back to the 2000 season.
MNF IN HDTV:
The entire schedule of ABC's NFL "Monday Night Football" will be available in HDTV.
Fred Gaudelli is the producer and Drew Esocoff is the director of ABC's NFL "Monday Night Football".