Manning comes up short in the postseason once again

If one were to look up Peyton Manning’s stats from Super Bowl XLIV, they would assume that he did enough to propel his team to a victory. After all, he completed 31-of-45 passes for 333 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

But as has been the case his entire career, Manning’s numbers weren’t enough.

Football is a team sport and one play doesn’t settle the outcome of a game. But when Tracy Porter intercepted Manning (who forced a pass into Reggie Wayne in the face of a New Orleans’ blitz) and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth, it sealed the Colts’ fate. In essence, Manning delivered the nail in the coffin for his own team, although it isn’t a surprise that he failed in the postseason.

The Colts have been very average in the postseason with Manning under center. Don’t believe me? Even with their Super Bowl victory four years ago, Indy is just 9-9 in the postseason with Manning as their starter. Considering he’s referred to as one of the best to have ever played the game, is it a stretch to say that the Colts should be better than that? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong: Peyton Manning is brilliant. He’s always the most prepared player on the field at all times and he’s the definition of being a student of the game. But isn’t this always the same story with him? Aren’t we always talking about his numbers and forgetting the fact that he only has one Super Bowl victory despite countless appearances in the postseason? Something is wrong here.

Manning wasn’t the only reason the Colts lost tonight. Had they recovered the onsides kick to start the first half and scored, they would have stolen all the momentum from the game and probably would have won. Had they sustained the momentum from the first quarter (a quarter in which they absolutely dominated), they probably would have won. Had their defense produced more second half stops, they probably would have won.

But I can’t shake the fact that when the Colts needed him most, Manning threw a pick six to essentially ensure a Saints’ victory. That’s not to take anything away from the Saints because they played great, but if we’re going to talk about Peyton being one of the best ever, then he needs to win this type of game. (After all, Joe Montana was 4-0 in the Super Bowl and Tom Brady was 3-1.)

It wouldn’t surprise me if Manning won another Super Bowl before his career is finished. But until then, let’s slow down with all the “best ever” talk, shall we?


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Despite Payton’s mistakes, the Saints emerge victorious in Super Bowl XLIV

There’s a difference between being risky and being stupid and Sean Payton straddled that line all night tonight.

With the Colts ahead 10-3 late in the first half and his team facing a 4th and 1 from the one-yard line, I thought Payton did the right thing by winding the clock down to the two-minute warning before making a decision on whether or not to go for it or kick a field goal. Unfortunately for the Saints, he arguably made the wrong decision by going for it as Pierre Thomas slipped and was stopped short of the goal line.

Forget the fact that Thomas slipped – it was a dumb decision by Payton. Not to go for it mind you – one could debate that it was a decent call given the score and situation. But calling a running play out the single back formation when he has a quarterback like Drew Brees running his offense just wasn’t a smart decision by Payton. I could go as far as to say it was a horrendous play call and he was lucky that his defense produced a three and out on the Colts’ next series and wound up still getting a field goal to cut the Colts’ lead to 10-6 right before half anyway.

Then to open the second half, Payton called a surprise onsides kick and had the Colts player fielded it cleanly, the Saints would have been screwed with horrible field position and a total lack of momentum. Payton once again came up lucky that 1) the Colts player mishandled it and 2) the Saints jumped on it, or else Indy might have ran out to an early double-digit lead early in the second half.

But despite all that, the New Orleans Saints are Super Bowl Champions. Despite all of Payton’s mistakes, the Saints were still able to execute. Despite getting dominated in the first quarter, the Saints didn’t freak out and the wound up being victorious in the end. Despite having so much go against them early on, the Saints were the team that showed enough grit and determination in the end to beat an opponent that had just won the Super Bowl four years ago and that had the Hall of Fame quarterback.

And you know what? That’s a testament to Sean Payton.

The Saints have had their backs against the wall several times this season, including near losses in Miami and Washington during the regular season, as well as when they entered the postseason as losers of three straight. But their head coach never wavered in his confidence for his team and they repaid him by showing their confidence in him. Forget destiny – the Saints won because they all bought into Payton’s philosophy. Brees may be the face of the franchise, but Payton is the heart and soul.

A team that didn’t have as much trust in their head coach would have lost tonight. But because the Saints backed Payton, they were able to overcome his mistakes and dominate three of the four quarters to become Super Bowl champs. It takes a special team to do what Payton’s Saints just did.

I’ll be doing more Super Bowl XLIV recap posts, so make sure to click here for more coverage.


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Super Bowl XLIV Prediction

I wrote a longer version of this article in my rough draft, but I’m going to do everyone a favor and just skip the foreplay. By now, your well aware of all the storylines centered around Super Bowl XLIV because it’s been shoved down your throat the past two weeks.

So let’s just get naked and do this thing already.

With everyone focused on Peyton Manning’s brilliance, Dwight Freeney’s injury and the Saints’ “destiny,” fans and analysts alike aren’t paying much attention to something that could be the difference in the end.

Whether it’s pounding it up the middle with Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell or testing the edge with Reggie Bush, the Saints can run the ball. In fact, they can run the ball better than people give them credit for.

What’s one of the best ways to beat Manning? If you said “with pressure” then you’d be right, but that’s easier said than done. The Saints battered Kurt Warner and Brett Favre into mistakes in their last two games, but Manning excels at reading a defense at the line of scrimmage, recognizing the coverage and getting the ball out of his hands quickly. Chances are that New Orleans won’t get to Manning consistently enough for it to play a huge factor in the outcome.

No, the best way to beat Manning is to keep him on the sidelines. The Saints can accomplish that by controlling the line of scrimmage and pounding the rock. Once they’ve done that, then the passing game will open up and due to Freeney’s injury, the Colts won’t be able to generate enough pressure with their front four to slow Brees down. If they blitz, Brees can burn them by throwing away from their coverage, which is something he specializes in.

While Brees, Bush, Jeremy Shockey, Darren Sharper and a host of other Saints will certainly play a key role tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pierre Thomas takes on the MVP award tonight. He could wind up being the backbone of the Saints’ offense and the key to keeping Manning on the sidelines.

The Saints win this game with their ground game, and I’m willing to bet that it’ll be a lower scoring game than people think.

Saints 24, Colts 23.


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Dungy sees a blow out in Super Bowl XLIV

Tony Dungy sees the Colts beating the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, which certainly isn’t shocking considering that he coached Indianapolis to a NFL title the last time they were on the big stage.

But what is surprising is to hear Dungy go on the record saying that the Colts will win handily.

From ESPN.com:

“I think they’re going to be so far ahead that people are going to say, ‘Oh, ho-hum, he played a good game, they won by two scores, the Colts won their second championship,’ ” Dungy said of Manning on Thursday. “He’s going to have those rings Sunday night. I don’t think it’s going to be close.”

Dungy, who led Indianapolis to a Super Bowl XLI victory in 2007, said the Saints’ difficulty in closing out the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC title game was evidence the Colts will have a convincing upper hand come Sunday.

“Minnesota is playing in New Orleans, they turn the ball over five times, have two or three stupid penalties and still lose in overtime,” Dungy told The Times. “I don’t see how it’s going to be close. The Colts aren’t going to turn it over seven times.”

Mark me down for the Saints to win outright.

There’s no way the Colts recover from that humongous cup of jinx that Dungy just poured all over them.


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Freeney misses practice, listed as questionable

Injured Colts’ defensive end Dwight Freeney was hoping to test his injured ankle on Friday during practice, but it didn’t happen as he was unable to hit the field. He didn’t practice once during the last two weeks and is listed as questionable on the Colts’ injury report for Super Bowl XLIV.

On Tuesday, Freeney told the media that the pain in his ankle was subsiding and that it felt better each day. Although he hasn’t practiced, it doesn’t mean that he won’t suit up on Super Bowl Sunday and he still has two more nights to treat the ankle so you never know how he’ll feel in two days.

That said, I highly doubt that he’ll play in Indy’s base defense and will likely be limited throughout the game. The best case for him and the Colts is if he’s able to play in obvious passing situations and provide a decent rush on Drew Brees but even then, it’s doubtful that Freeney will be that effective given that he’s a speed rusher and his ankle won’t be 100%.

As I’ve written all week, if Freeney is limited the Saints have a huge advantage because they can concentrate on slowing down Robert Mathis and won’t have to worry about keeping an extra blocker in. They can use their full complement of offensive weapons, which is dangerous considering how explosive their offense can be. Brees might have a field day on Sunday if the Colts can’t figure out a way to drum up some pressure without Freeney.


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