Colts Lose, Colts Lose!
I’m going to get to my more in-depth analysis of the game in a moment, which is colored by my being a Colts fan. So before I expose myself as the total homer that I am, let me publicly say the following:
The Saints won that game. They earned it, and they deserve it. I can’t think of any other team I’d rather see beat the Colts than this year’s Saints. Hard not to like those guys except for the fact that they were opposing my favorite team. Drew Brees was lights out, and deserved the MVP. Congrats to them.
Now, my blood turns blue for a moment… here’s why the Colts lost, in random order:
1. The Colts receivers lost this game. There’s no other way for me to look at it.
A. Aside from two of the most glaring Super Bowl drops in history (Garcon on the 3rd down play and then Wayne at the one yard line near the game’s end), there were two or three other drops that I saw that should have been catches. Unacceptable in the Super Bowl to have this kind of sloppy receiver play. Dallas Clark was the only receiver who looked like he belonged out there.
B. Wayne was off all game. He re-aggravated his injury a few days before the game, and I can’t help but wonder if that contributed to his drops and general stale route running.
C. Hank freaking Baskett should have had that onsides kick on the first hop. I’m personally ashamed that he bobbled it so badly.
Manning played really well. Really well. He made throws fading backwards, running to his right, and repeatedly put the ball in pinpoint-perfect position for his receivers. Take away the interception, which I’ll address in a moment, and he played like an MVP. More on Manning in a moment too.
2. The interception wasn’t necessarily what it looked like. I’ve seen them run that play to Wayne a few dozen times, and he was not where he was supposed to be—again, perhaps a symptom of his injury. I’m not saying Manning is blameless for the INT, but Wayne was not where Manning expected him to be, and it allowed Porter to make the great play. Maybe Manning could have seen that Wayne was off the route, and held the ball, I don’t know. But high profile analysts like Chris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson (both of whom do have a tendency to be complete idiots, I understand) have publicly mentioned they thought the INT was Wayne’s fault more than Manning’s—that Wayne appeared to be dogging it a bit.
No matter. The Manning haters are still going to call it a choke. Because that’s what you do when Manning loses… you say he chokes. Nevermind the 2 playoff games he won to get here… those games aren’t “big games”… unless he’d have lost them, that is. Nevermind that he’s won as many postseason games as he’s lost. Oh well. QB’s get all the glory… so I guess it’s mildly fair for them to get all the blame.
Also… comparing this INT to the one Favre threw in the NFC Championship game is laughable. Favre was running to his right and throwing against his body (something you’re never supposed to do) and he didn’t even need to throw the ball… not to mention he had room in front of him to run. That was a stupid decision. Manning’s Super Bowl INT was maybe a ball he shouldn’t have thrown, in that he maybe should have seen that Wayne wasn’t coming back to the spot… but it’s not the same thing whatsoever.
3. How the freaking crap does this Colts team get the ball back with over a minute to go in the first half and freaking run the ball three times?!?! This might be the biggest WTF moment for me in the entire game. Manning has written the book this season on late-first-half scoring drives. What the hell were they afraid of? The play calling on this drive is unforgiveable. I don’t understand how it can even happen.
4. The Onsides Kick. You know what? The Onsides Kick was gutsy. It was bold. It changed the game’s complexion. It might have been the biggest play of the entire game.
And all that would be true… if the Saints had actually recovered the damn ball.
I have watched this game twice now, with particular attention paid to the onsides kick, and it’s pretty clear that the Saints player loses control after grabbing at the ball, and a Colts player falls on it. He’s immediately jumped on by about 20 people, and half a dozen penalty-worthy hits and punches are thrown in the scrum, and somehow the ball changes hands by the time the refs pull them all off. Incidentally, how the hell does the NFL let that scrum take place with all that shoving and violence and not issue a single penalty to either team?!
Sour grapes time: it’s always annoyed me that this “scrum” thing is part of football. That a game that prides itself on inches and being exact, and using HD replays to “get it right”, can let fumble recoveries come down to who twists the other teams testicles the best inside the scrum. There isn’t a better way to find out who recovered the ball? Because there’s at least one official who audibly says “Blue Ball” on the tape, only to be overruled a couple minutes later by another ref.
People are talking like this play is the new “The Catch” or something… but it was just an onsides kick, and one that the receiving team actually recovered, only to be robbed of it in a pile-up.
Summary: That’s my four keys to the loss. Any one of those things goes the opposite way, and we might be looking at a different outcome. We might not be. The Saints were going to score. They were dominant all year. And they earned their victory. I truly don’t believe that any one play makes or breaks a game… and throughout the whole game, the Saints made more plays than the Colts did… and it crushes me to say that.
But the Colts did enough to shoot themselves in the foot (dropped passes, horrific play calling at the half) that the Saints didn’t need to be perfect. I truly expected the Colts to win. And they probably should have. But apparently the receivers spent the prep week watching Braylon Edwards highlights and the coaches brushed up on the Jeff Fisher School of Frustratingly Conservative Play Calling. Ugh.
On the plus side… Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark looked downright manly in that game. There is plenty to be optimistic about for the Colts franchise. Just wish it would have come together well enough to win this game.