The AFC Championship Game was one for the ages. Everyone knows the history between the Patriots and the Colts, the disheartening losses in the playoffs year after year by the offensive-minded Colts, victims of a more-physical defense and mental frustration. The subplot was obvious: Belichick's schemes disrupt the Colts wideouts, hassle Manning into hasty throws and the turnovers begin to mount up, while Brady is usually cool as a cucumber directing long, game-ending drives with unhurried precision.

By the middle of the second quarter it was 21-3 Patriots. Peyton threw an interception, which was an exceptional play by Assante Samuel, that was returned 30+ yards for a TD. The whole football-watching nation thought, "Here we go again," including this disbelieving writer. Through my fingers I was able to watch the third quarter, little did I suspect that I was about to witness the greatest comeback in Championship history. The Patriots simply don't give up many second half points and their secondary was on the top of their games. Samuel, in addition to the INT-for-TD, knocked away several balls and kept Marvin Harrison quiet. Playing across from him, fellow defensive back Ellis Hobbs had probably the best game of his young career. I had no idea how fast he was, and he knocked away several good throws to Reggie Wayne. After all, it seemed even the ball was just bouncing the Patriots way- as evidenced by the crazy fumble by Lawrence Maroney at the 4-yard-line that squirted somehow through three Colts defenders before winding up in the arms of Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins in the end zone for a New England TD.

But that different look in the demeanor of the Colts in the playoffs this year returned. They became more physical, the offensive line blocked their butts off for Manning, the defense was flying around, Addai and Rhodes ran the ball hard. Their effort was rewarded by some unlikely characters. Jets Fans had to love to see Dan Klecko (son of Jet great Joe Klecko) catch a TD off a play action. And in an even an unlikelier turn, Dominic Rhodes fumbled on the goal line and it was recovered by Colts center Jeff Saturday. Right then it was evident: this game was coming down to 'an eye for an eye'.
The Colts tied the score in the second half three times - at 21, 28 and 31 - before taking their first lead of the game with 1:00 to play on an Addai TD run.

I leapt off the couch but settled down soon because I saw Tom Brady on the sideline throwing a football with a very determined look on his face. Brady had played a great game, so many times he was just a fingertip's grasp away from a sack, knockdown or fumble. But give him all the credit, he got that ball out of there quickly and avoided a turnover until he was forced to squeeze one in there on the last drive. He quickened pulses and soured some stomachs before Colts DB Marlin Jackson picked Brady off and sealed the game.

He still has one more game to win to complete his legacy in just his 9th year as a professional quarterback, but it was great to see Peyton Manning rise above his personal nemesis in the biggest game of his life. He is the best quarterback in the league because he makes great throws, rehearses his routes with his WR's maniacally, studies like no other, prepares like no other, changes plays and blocking assignments to win and will do whatever it takes for his team - but it is nearly safe to assume that he will own every meaningful passing record by the time he is done. We are watching what could be the greatest of all-time. I just remember when everyone said Michael Jordan would never win a championship, and then when he finally broke that seal he won every year he played for the Bulls after that, 5 more times. We could see a similar uncorking of dominance in the NFL with Peyton Manning and the Colts.

The Bears will make a nice rug in Peyton's cabin when he retires. He will reflect on his stellar career before a roaring hearth, penning his memoirs and nuzzling his feet into the soft, luxuriant hide of his first Super Bowl prey.


Anonymous said...

Oh my God, why don't you just blow Peyton already? Holy shit!
I have a question Figgy, why do you like this non-Giant, non-Bronco so much? Does he remind you of you or something? I think you've won way more big games (Turkey Bowls) than Peyton, so I don't see the connection.

Anyway, it was a great game. I hope the Super Bowl is as good. I agree that Peyton is great, and will go down as one of the greatest, even if he never wins the big one. (a la Dan Marino)

I have to tell you, it is amazing to watch QBs that have real arms throwing the ball. Chad doesn't have 1/5th of the arm Brady or Manning has. They just flick it and it goes 40 yards, and when they launch it, it goes forever.

Anyway, I owe you a 10 spot Figgy, but I want the Bears to win the Super Bowl. Why? Because I like underdogs! The only problem I have is that I can't stand Rex Grossman. But, as the Steelers and Ravens have proved in this century, you don't need a great QB to win the Super Bowl. We'll see.

unruly said...

Miggy, Fakehead is right in that you are proving to be a little gay for Peyton Manning. But he is freaking good.

Both teams I picked to win this past week lost. This is a tough week coming up. I think the Bears defense is too physical and fast for Manning to be slinging his arm. I think their running game will have to used more. Just like you said the Saints should have done.

As for Klecko, that was cool. I didnt realize that until I read this blog. Dan Klecko actually came up with the Pats. I dont know if they cut him or what, but he was a defensive end I thought. Now he is on defense?

unruly said...

I mean offense?

The Overfloater said...

What is wrong with you people? How can you not acknowledge greatness playing right in front of you. Oh wait, perhaps you don't have the NFL Ticket and don't watch all the games all year long. That would explain it maybe, but if you saw #18 play every week like I do, you would understand what he is doing is art.

Take for example, the way Peyton changes up the blocking assignments when he gets to the line as the defense shifts, audibles to a better play to exploit the defense, utilize the quick snap and no-huddle better than anyone, hard count, deceiving defenses with fake play calls that only the offense knows means nothing, rehearses in the off-season like he has OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), dissects film and has such a high football and real IQ that it is like there's a coach on the field.

The list goes on and on. He is THE best QB in the league, however I give Brady equal footing. Now, let's talk about pressure situations. He has totally choked in the past. And that's what makes such compelling drama. Achilles sliced up everyone in battle, but he had one weakness in his heel. Peyton tries too hard in those games, but also football is a very unpredictable game.

'What factors affect the distance a football can be thrown? What is the best launch angle and speed for a field-goal attempt? Why does the ball sometimes wobble on it's trajectory, and does this have an influence on its range and accuracy?'

-The Physics of Football, 2004, Timothy Guy, Ph.D

The weather in New England both games played a factor for the dome-home Colts. Plus, New England had more playmakers on defense, Rod Harrison, a young Bruschi, and most importantly Ty Law. Vanderjerk, 'best kicker of all-time' failed to consider the above questions and missed the field goal that would have beat the Steelers last year. Considering Bill Belichick wrote the forward to the book I quoted above, I bet Adam Vinateiri has read it.

So how the hell can you losers not root for this guy? He's finally overcome the Patriots (which no one else besides Jake Plummer (!Plummer is the first guy to beat Brady in the playoffs!) and the Broncos has done during the playoffs this decade. You guys are JETS fans for crying out loud!!!! Faker used to be a Colts fan!!! They gave ED his victory lap of his career!

Now that I'm done 'blowing' Manning because I recognize a great QB when I see one, let me reiterate for a few people to communicate and picking a date for GOLF!

Anonymous said...

You guys let me about golf. I only played once and I sucked. I still play baseball so my swing is completely fucked for golf. But I'll try. My only problem is that I am too concerned about the people playing behind us and I don't want them to wait too long for my 21 shot holes and blah, blah blah. But whatever, I'll just give up if I have to and throw the ball on the green.

Anyway, I don't disagree that Peyton is a great QB, I just think you jerk off to his picture too much.

ha ha ha - Just busting your balls Figgy. I'll stop bashing your hero. Although, I think at this point Brady goes down as a better QB because he has three rings in three chances. Until Peyton catches up, he can have all the statistical records there are, Brady will still be known as the champ.

We'll see what happens, but I don't think this is Peyton's year to win the big one. Maybe next year (oh wait, the Jets are going to the Super Bowl next year! I forgot).