Sunday, February 7, 2010

Colts/Saints: Someone Had to Fail Eventually

Someone had to make a mistake. That was the only way this game was going to end. The simple question was just who: Colts' Peyton Manning or Saints' Drew Brees? Both were incredibly solid. From kickoff to final kneel – interception aside – they put on independent clinics on how a quarterback is supposed to handle oneself in the pocket, find the open man and make the wise throw. It got to the point where I wasn't even impressed by the thread-the-needle completions, on the numbers passes, and the unworldly touch when dropping a pass over a receivers shoulder. What got my attention was when a poor throw was made (very few) or a receiver dropped a practically perfect pass.

Sixty-three completions between the two of them. Brees tied the Super Bowl record with 32 (tying Tom Brady) and Manning fell one short.

Both defenses knew what was coming. Both teams brought prolific offenses to Miami. Both were powered by the pass. Whatever they got on the ground was a bonus. In the end the Colts had a pretty decent showing by RB Joseph Addai (13 carries, 77 yards), but this was a game played through the air. The respective defensive coordinators did what they could to harness the nearly unstoppable star quarterback leading the attack on the opposing sideline, and to an extent they succeeded. If you noticed, there were no electric long plays from scrimmage, mainly a lot of screens, dumps over the middle, and check-backs by receivers. These defenses were as prepared as they could be after two weeks of preparation for two QBs of destiny. Just so turns out that Brees outlasted Manning in the turnover department. And Manning's single un-Manning moment of weakness was the deciding moment. Manning had seven fourth quarter comebacks this season. The way this came was going, it looked like he was on his way to eight ... until Tracy Porter stepped in line with that poorly-placed (inside shoulder) pass, which he returned 74 yards for the final cushion.

This game was everything that it was supposed to be: Two deserving contenders who brought passionate fan bases to Miami (NO gets the nod for most energetic – did you see the images of the French Quarter after the clock hit zeroes?); two quarterbacks who played as close to perfect games as possible on the grandest stage; Dwight Freeney battling through injury to make an impact (at least in the first half); Saints' coach Sean Payton opting not to take the safe route in hopes of getting the win (that onside kick to start the 2nd half took all of America by surprise); two teams that had legitimate shots at the title late into the fourth quarter; and classy post-game behavior by both teams.

I thought the Saints would crumble under the bright lights. I was wrong. I didn't sense a single moment of trepidation from anyone in gold and black. The Colts, however, lost their swagger early in the second half. Coach Jim Caldwell probably gave a nice halftime speech about coming out and establishing themselves early in the half and deflating the Saints energy. Onside kick. The Colts weren't entirely themselves after that.

Enough for now. That was a hell of a game. I think the city of New Orleans needed this more than the legacy of Peyton Manning needed the extra boost into super-duper-extraordinary. Enjoy the moment.

And please, no more of the 'Who dat?' stuff after Tuesday.

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