Monday, February 8, 2010

The Day After

The Super Bowl was pretty weak if you ask me. I like great players playing great (one of the biggest reasons Kobe will never be considered an equal of MJ: his huge highs and lows vs. MJ's consistent high). I like watching great athletes compete on their stage at a very high level. Even if my team loses, I can handle it if the level of play is stellar. An old friend of mine is such a die-hard San Diego Chargers fan that when Bo Jackson suffered that hip injury as a Raider my friend was actually a little pleased (because the Chargers might benefit). I haven't talked to him in a long time and no, not because of that one incident, but it certainly was a symptom of a much bigger problem. That kind of fanaticism is idiotic. Lacks heart and soul. I might add that said friend was a below average baller.

Payton Manning should have played a lot better than he did. I "read" games and athletes pretty well having competed in team sports (soccer) most of my life. The Saints clearly (and anyone should have read this) developed confidence throughout the second half, beginning with the on-side kick. But what gave the other Payton confidence to make such a call? The way the first half ended should have given every Saints fan a little confidence. First of all, the black and gold go for it on 4th and goal (didn't like the call -- take the points. Or at least, if you're going to go for it, put it in Brees' hands). They're stopped. Colts ball, up 10-3 with about 2 minutes to play in the half. And the Saints force a 3 and out. That was HUGE. Had Indy run-out the clock, or even gone vintage Payton Manning down the field for a quick 3 pointer, boom, different game. The same thing happened in the Chargers Jets game. San Diego did not maintain that point differential, or extend it. The Jets hung around. And more than just simple math is at stake. The team that stays close gains confidence. Conversely, the team with the lead that fails to extend that lead (many times this is the favored or "better" team) gets nervous. Then you have a ball game.

So, by forcing the 3 and out late in the first half, the Saints get the 3 points they should have gotten on the field goal they should have kicked on the earlier 4th and goal. 10-6 at half (Ball Game), a Saints half-time locker room full of hope and growing more confident (apparently they made a living this year from coming from behind). But a brilliant Manning doesn't go 3 and out. He runs out the clock (or drives for a late fg) and the Colts get the ball in the second half (I would venture to say that Sean Payton does NOT try the on-side down 10 or 13-3). Anyone who watched could sense how close this thing was to a Colts' comfortable win/blow-out.

The second half was all Saints. Manning just couldn't rise to the occasion. Even though Brees is brilliant himself, Manning did not exchange blows. The Saints' confidence grew and the Colts, mainly Manning, became less and less effective. I am not going to deny the Saints' ability to keep Manning off the field. They moved the ball. They have a ton of weapons. Freeney's injury was a factor.

However, Manning, as supreme a talent as he is, did not show-up in the second half. I was signaling game over with about 8 minutes to go. The Colts were done. The interception was just a formality. And I think a great point concerns how one sees this game affecting his legacy. If one were to say that a Colts' win cements Manning as the greatest (at least on that very very short list), then doesn't this performance do damage to his legacy on the same scale? If not, why not? For now it does. He's more Marino than he is Montana. He has the stats, but only one ring (and if anyone remembers that one super bowl win, he/she recalls that was anything but a real classic).

Manning is a tremendous talent, but I have to say that many people (even me to a certain extent) seem to have forgotten his record from his Tennessee and early Colts' days. At Tennessee, go back and look, he could not win the big game. At the time, Spurrier was at Florida, and both Florida and Tennessee were highly ranked. At least two of the match-ups had big national title implications. Under Manning, Tennessee never beat the Spurrier-led Gators. It's not far-fetched to say that many considered Manning a bit of choke. We might be a little more familiar with the height of the Patriots' run and the way they were able to frustrate and beat Manning a couple of times in the playoffs although I think Manning had a huge win vs. Brady during the Colts' super bowl title run in 2007.

My point is that Manning's ineffective play in the 2010 Super Bowl is not an isolated incident.

From the perspective of wanting to see the Saints finally win, great stuff. No one deserves it more than that team, that city and all of its people. But from a performance perspective, Manning came-up short. If anything, let's say the Saints win in a shoot-out, Manning could have, as I said, been a part of a classic, a real barn-burner, which some people were anticipating, at least hoping for. Didn't happen.

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