Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, January 22, 2007

Go win this thing, Peyton

The ball was right there in his hands, but then it slipped out. This time was different, though.

Instead of slipping right back into the New England Patriots' hands, as so many of these games had before, Reggie Wayne snatched that ball out of the air and cradled it in his arms as he fell to the ground. First down, 23 yards closer to one of the greatest comebacks any of us have ever seen. (To quote Barney from How I Met Your Mother, it would be "legendary.")

To me, that play, just before the two-minute warning at the end of last night's game, was an allegory for the Indianapolis Colts' recent playoff failures. How many times have the Colts had their eyes on the prize, had it right in their hands, only to see the Patriots take it away - and kick them down the stairs, for good measure?

But this time, Charlie Brown got to kick that football. Lucy couldn't pull it away, no matter how hard she may have tried. Peyton Manning and the Colts had the answers. They made the plays when they counted the most. They finally ran through the wall they'd been banging their heads against for so many years.

This thing was over in the second quarter. 21-3? Asante Samuel's 39-yard interception return for a touchdown was yet another slap right to Manning's face. And you had to wonder what was going to happen to the Colts after this game. Because if they couldn't beat the Patriots this time, when the hell were they going to do it?

But wasn't it even sweeter with that comeback? Could it really have happened any other way? The Patriots had to beat Peyton Manning down and rub his face in the dirt before he could push them off, get back up, and fight back. It was like an old Hulk Hogan wrestling match. The Hulkster looks beaten. The Iron Sheik keeps hammering away. But he keeps taking the punches, until that last one finally jolts him back to life. And then the rally begins.

Yet until it actually happened, until Manning finished off one of those drives that makes a quarterback legendary, until Joseph Addai pushed into the end zone with one minute left in the game, did such a comeback seem possible? Because we've never seen this before. The Patriots don't lose these games - especially to the Colts.

Even when Indianapolis beat New England earlier in the season, it seemed like the Patriots let it happen. They didn't attack Manning with blitzes as they had before. They didn't run Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney into the middle of that soft Colts defense. Belichick was just toying with Indianapolis, right? He had to be holding stuff back for that inevitable playoff rematch. Any time he wanted to, he could unleash the hounds on Manning.

But not last night. Tony Dungy and his staff should hold clinics on whatever adjustments they made during halftime. Instead of looking at the scoreboard and curling into the fetal position, the Colts came out with purpose.

Even Manning seemed more focused. He cut down on the pre-snap histrionics. No pointing to the right, hand signals to the left. No stepping back from center, pointing at a blitzer, yelling out instructions to his backs and receivers, and stepping under center again for an audible that may or may not have been called. No more trying to fool the defense. Just do what you do, and see if they can stop it.

And this time, the Patriots couldn't. Not only that, they were the ones committing costly penalties. They were the ones dropping the wide-open passes. They were the ones who'd look back on this game and kick themselves.

For the Colts' sake, I hope it doesn't end here. I get a little uneasy when I see a team celebrate like Indianapolis did right after the game. I know they cleared a huge hurdle, and going to the Super Bowl is one hell of an accomplishment. And doing it in front of the home fans had to make it feel that much more special.

But I couldn't help but think of the Pistons after they beat the Celtics in '88, or the Tigers after beating Oakland last season. Both those teams acted as if they'd already won the championship. Yes, they had to celebrate. It was only natural, considering all the frustration that came beforehand. I've obviously never been in such a position, but it seems like it'd be difficult to come back from that and play again. And I hope the Colts don't fall into that trap. That was just too good a comeback to waste.

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3 Comments:

  • At January 22, 2007 1:02 PM, Blogger Mini Me said…

    This is Peyton's time. He better win this thing this year.

     
  • At January 22, 2007 1:05 PM, Blogger KevinA76 said…

    My tagline for the game:

    "Super Bowl XLI: Eh"

    I like Manning, so I guess I'll be "rooting" for him, but not very loudly. I don't really like either of these teams.

     
  • At January 23, 2007 3:08 AM, Blogger twins15 said…

    I'll be rooting for the Colts... for one, I hate the Bears. But more importantly, the guy's one of the hardest working players in the NFL. He deserves to finally bring the title home.

     

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