I don;t need to rehash every thing that’s been said about this matchup, so I’ll let ESPN do it for you.
This is a big matchup. I am rooting for the Colts, but it’s difficult to predict this game because both of these teams are very strong.
The Colts’ defense, much maligned during the regular season, has really stepped up in the postseason thanks in no small part to the return of safety Bob Sanders from injury. If the Colts want to win, the defense must continue to play well, no small task against the Patriots, who have a good playoff defense in their own right. I think this game will not come down to which QB (Manning or Brady) will play the best, but which defense can make the opposing QB play the worst. That’s how New England won the first two matchups against Indy, and the defense will be why either team wins.
6:44 pm: The Pats start with a play action rollout to the right, but Brady has no one to throw to.
6:45 pm: Corey Dillon runs into the defensive line, but manages to get 3.
6:46 pm: New England runs a draw on third down and 7, and they get the first. That play take cajones, but it throws the defense off guard.
6:47 pm: Dillon is stuffed again on 2nd down. They should put Maroney in there, he’s clearly the more athletic back.
6:48 pm: The Pats try a second pass to Faulk in the flat, and again he drops. The Pats are forced to punt. Wilkins returns the punt to his own 29.
6 :49 pm: Indy runs it on first down and Joseph Addai gets 6 yards. I like this play. Addai fakes it like he’s going to the inside, but then bounces outside, leaving the slower Patriot linebackers out of position.
Good lord, it’s good to blog a football game again. This is more in my element than basketball. Maybe it’s because of the set plays, but I like to think I’m much better at analyzing the intricacies of Football.
6:52 pm: Indy runs a play on third down where Addai runs downfield along the sidelines, and he’s a quarter step behind the ball and drops it. Going three and out can’t be good for the Colt’s confidence, but we still have 56 minutes to play.
I’m going to start counting Manning commercials.
6:56 pm: Wow… an entire commercial break in the AFC Championship game without a single Manning commercial.
6:58 pm: This can’t be good. We’re less than five minutes into the game and two Colts defensive linemen (Dwight Freeney and Gary Brackett) are banged up. This means either something up with the turf or the Pats O-line really came to play.
7:00 pm: Why haven’t I seen Maroney in the game? They’re running draws with Kevin Faulk! That’s the third one to him they’ve run today. Right now the Pats are looking at 4th and inches near midfield. If Belichick punts he is a woman.
7:02 pm: This is embarrassing…Pats run the ball on fourth and one and slowpoke Corey Dillon runs it 30 yards into the red zone.
7:03 pm: Maroney is finally in the game and he takes a screen pass 9 yards to the 5. Brady’s sneak on 2nd down fails. Indy had better not let the Pats waltz into the endzone like they let Dillon through on 4th and 1.
7:04 pm: This could be the ultimate WTF play. Maroney fumbles, the ball goes into a pile of 3 Colts defenders, and it squirts into the endzone where a Patriots lineman falls on it in the end zone for a TOUCHDOWN. 7-0, Pats. How doe Indy not get the ball? How does the ball escape into the end zone? How does a Pat notice and fall on it? If this play is any indication, the football gods are Pats fans.
Wait a minute…there are no football gods!!! Then how do explain such a bad play going New England’s way? It screams divine intervention! I think my head is going to explode if I discuss that play any longer.
7:10 pm: Addai makes a hard run for a first down. Seeing a Colt drag three guys with him down the field is fun.
7:11 pm: The Colts run a great WR screen to Reggie Wayne for another first down. Plays like this use a defense’s aggressiveness against them, and that’s exactly what happened in the game.
7:12 pm: What is Indy doing? They’re running the ball well, why are they running pass plays on first and second down?
7:13 pm: Dallas Clark makes a tough catch on 3rd and 6; I can’t believe Manning got it in there.
7:14 pm: After a run and a quick pass to TE Utecht, it’s now 3rd and inches for the Colts. Will they run ot or pass it? I say play action rollout pass to Clark in the flat to the right.
7:16 pm: They give it Addai… and I’m not sure he got it…but he did, just barely. I would have called a fullback dive if they wanted to do that, but Indy doesn’t have a fullback.
People don’t realize that most running backs in pro football are only as good as their blockers, especially lead blockers, which is the role the modern fullback has. Lorenzo Neal is the full back responsible for the successful careers of Eddie George and LaDanian Tomlinson. Great running teams have great lead blockers. I think the colts use a tight end. But I digress. The colts started their set of downs at the 25, but a penalty sent them 10 yards back, and it took an Addai screen play to get it back to good field goal range. Adam Vinatieri hits the field goal to make it 7-3, Patriots.
7:22 pm: Amazing…absolutely no bizarre ads or Manning ads so far. The NFL may have actually become…Sane. Nah, it must be an illusion.
7:25 pm: Already three Colts defenders are injured today. This can’t be good. The first quarter ends with the Patriots leading, 7-3.
7:29 pm: Brady get a first down off a sneak. It looked like he might have been hit pretty good. This got me thinking, what if Tom Brady got injured? What would happen to the Pats? Would they tank, or would Andrew Cassel fill in and lead the Pats to playoff glory?
7:32 pm: Maroney is finally getting the ball, and he’s running the ball well. He’s really making guys miss. He is the future of the Pat’s backfield and today the future is now.
7:33 pm: New england is left with a dilemma, where it’s 4th down, its too close to punt but a field goal would be 52 yards. What will the Pats do? The Pats call a timeout and a commercial break builds the suspense. I hate network TV.
7:36 pm: The Pats go for it on 4th and 6…and again they convert with a huge pass down the middle to Troy Brown, who takes it inside the 10. That really has to suck; the Colts defense force a fourth down, but then the allow a big play on fourth down.
7:37 pm: Corey Dillon waltzes into the endzone. 14-3, Pats. The Colts run defense is rearing its ugly head.
7:39 pm: Wow, we only get our first Manning ad in the mid-2nd quarter ad break (Sprint). Maybe that’s why Indy was losing; no Manning commercials!
7:40 pm: I knew it was only a matter of time before stadiums nationwide would play Trick Daddy and Lil’ Jon’s crunk anthem “Let’s Go”.
7:42 pm: Asante Samuel intercepts a pass off an out route to Marvin Harrison and returns it for a TOUCHDOWN. 21-3, Pats. What the hell is happening to the Colts? They seem to have allowed three freak touchdowns. They all were plays that would not happen 9 times out of 10.
7:47 pm: Seriously, what the hell has happened to the Colts? They are experiencing a complete mental breakdown. I’m not even a big Colts fan and I am having a hard time watching this disintegration. This has to be a mental thing; at worst Indy’s talent is on par with the Pats, and at worst Indy’s talent is far superior. This can only be explained my lack of mental preparation, which is bizarre considering what they were able to overcome the previous two games.
7:52 pm: The Colts are back on defense, and they seem to be playing well, getting good hits and forcing third and long. Just as I say that, the Pats convert another big play. Brady has yet to be sacked. This has to change if the Colts want to get back in this game.
7:55 pm: New England is on 3rd and 21. Surely they cannot convert this. The Colts have to stop them out of FG range.
7:57 pm: Finally something that goes Indy’s way. Two penalties and a sack force the Pats to punt. Hopefully the Colts can score a touch down before halftime and get back in this game, because no one likes to see a b—-slapping for a Championship game. Unless you’re a Gators fan.
8:01 pm: Do you think Peyton Manning has played so much football that his body has altered from a normal human to accommodate? How else is his appearance explainable? These are the kinds of thoughts that go through one’s mind while trying to blog a game and listening to Audioslave’s “Out of Exile” album.
8:03 pm: Manning commercial #2: Sony.
8:05 pm: Indy is driving the ball well, getting three first downs on three straight pass plays. They are determined to get something done before halftime.
Manning gets another pass to Dallas Clark, who gets into field goal range. Manning gets a little too greedy and goes for the end zone; the pass is overthrown. Just like that, Indy is looking at third and 10.
8:08 pm: Indy gets a huge conversion and makes it into the red zone. Manning gets it to Clark inside the 10, and Indy has three shots at the end zone with 24 seconds left.
8:10 pm: I get the principle of running a draw in this situation, but the Pats were expecting it, putting 8-9 guys in the box! This makes no sense.
8:11 pm: Three times Manning has thrown a good pass in the end zone, and three times safety James Sanders (in for Rodney Harrison) breaks the pass up. How bizarre is that.
8:15 pm: Indy hits a field goal, but the snap is almost botched. Belichick must have consulted some sort of voodoo practitioner, that’s the only reasonable explanation for the events if this game.
8:17 pm: The first half ends. New England leads, 21-6. It’s not that the Colts have played bad, it’s that they brought their mental “C-” game, which you simply can’t do against the Patriots.
8:20 pm: Bizarre ad alert: Get your own truck, Nessie!
8:34 pm: The second half begins, and Colts offense starts by giving the ball to Dominic Rhodes, which turns out to be a good decision as he gets them two first downs and brings them close to midfield.
8:36 pm: Marvin makes a big sideline catch thrown where only he can get it, and it takes the Colts to the NE 39. Those are the kinds of plays we expect from these guys.
8: 37 pm: The Pats send pressure and force an incompletion and third down.
8:38 pm: Indy makes a huge third down conversion by the same play a second time, and this time Wayne catches it up the middle. Indy is now in striking distance.
8: 39 pm: Manning throws another pass in the middle and again it’s caught. The Colts are inside the 10.
8:40 pm: Addai fights for the goalline on second down, but is denied by James Sanders. Is Rodney Harrison suiting up without us noticing?
8:41 pm: Peyton Manning sneaks in for a TOUCHDOWN. This I did not expect at all. It’s now 21-13, New England. Suddenly Indy is back in this game.
8:42 pm: Finally, a bizarre ad alert, courtesy of Southwest. Those pet owners must really suck.
8:47 pm: On the ensuing kickoff, the kick returner is leveled, and then Brady throws the ball away.
8:48 pm: Faulk gets an 8-yard run, but Indy makes a huge hit to prevent the fullback from getting the first down. Indy needed that three and out. This is officially a game again. I’m afraid to jinx the Colts at this point.
8:52 pm: Manning opens the drive by throwing a deep pass to Dallas Clark, who goes to midfield. On the next play, Dominic Rhodes makes a big run to the Pats 35. Wow. Indy is storming out of the second half. Then again, Tony Dungy is likely the coach other then Belichick least likely to panic. He is physically incapable of panicking.
8:53 pm: Wow…Marvin Harrison drops a pass. Unbelievable.
8:54 pm: After Rhodes runs for 5 yards, the colts have a third and 5 at the NE 27… but DE Richard Seymour goes offsides, and it’s a first down!
8:56 pm: Addai is back in the game. The Pats are called for pass interference in the end zone. Colts will have three chances from the 1 to potentially tie this game.
8:57 pm: Colts lineman Dan Klecko catches the ball for a TOUCHDOWN. Colts run a rollout to the right, and Marvin Harrison makes an unbelievable catch for the conversion. The game is tied, 21-21. What a comeback by the Colts.
9:00 pm: Almost on cue, Ellis Hobbs takes the ensuing kickoff back to the Colts 21 yard line. Unbelievable. The “football gods” are just playing with us at this point.
9:03 pm: Brady hits an open Gabar Gaffney to take to the five. Dillon is absolutely stuffed on the next play. but doubt that the Pats won’t score on this drive.
9:04 pm: Wow…how does this happen? The Patriots drop a pass in the open, in the end zone.
9:09 pm: Brady waits an eternity before he throws the ball, and it’s caught by Jabar Gaffney in the back of the endzone for a TOUCHDOWN. Dungy challenges the call, but it is upheld. 28-21, Pats. Just when the Colts have the momentum, the Pats get the lead and momentum back in one fell swoop.
9:13 pm: A rare play where a lineman takes the kickoff is decleated, fumbles the ball, and another lineman on his team recovers. It’s a lot of fun to watch plays like that, because they incorporate all that gets fans pumped: fat linemen, decleaters, and scrums for the ball. You gotta love football. You Just don’t see Shaq taking the ball coast to coast, going down the lane for a dunk, missing the dunk, coming down hard on Steve Nash, and Alonzo Mourning getting the rebound and three point play.
9:17 pm: The Colts are driving again thanks to more plays by Manning and Rhodes. Who would’ve though Rhodes would be Indy’s savior in this game. The thirs quarter ends withe the Pats leading 28-21, but the Colts are now within earshot of the endzone. This turned out to be a very exciting game, just not in the way we expected.
9:19 pm: Indy is is now in field goal range, but a field goal does little good in this situation. Just as I say that, Dallas Clark makes another huge catch and Indy is inside the 10.
9:22 pm: The Pats defense is really starting to look tired. It’s showing as their starting to make mistakes. They just got called for offsides, and the Colts are now at the 2 yard line.
9:23 pm: GIVE IT UP FOR THE TARHEELS! Rhodes fumbles, but UNC alum Jeff Saturday recovers it for the TOUCHDOWN. The game is tied again, 28-28. I love football!
9:26 pm: Interesting…it seems that Indy turned off the Air Conditioning in the RCA dome, and now it’s very hot and humid inside the stadium. This could have been a strategy by stadium maintenance crew. If Indy wins, somebody get a game ball to the janitor in section 109.
9:28 pm: New England is forced into a three and out, and Indy will now get the ball with a chance to take the lead.
Uh-oh. It appears that Bob Sanders, safety and spark plug for the Colts defense, was injured on third down. He cannot afford to be hurt in this game.
I have been quite shocked by the lack of bizarre commercials in this game. This is a big game, the ads need to deliver like the players have in this game.
9:33 pm: Just as the Colts were getting some momentum, they go 3-and-out thanks in no small part to Addai sacking his own quarterback. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes at such critical moments.
9:38 pm: Again New England has a short field because of mental errors on the part of Indy. and they are now again threatening to take the lead. In case it needed to get worse, Manning’s thumb is hurt.
9:41 pm: Why is it that the Pats are making the tough catches but dropping the easy ones?
9:42 pm: This is huge. Thanks to a big error by Caldwell, Indy will hold the Pats to a FIELD GOAL. New England takes the lead, 31-28. Anyone think this game might come down to a Boise State-type play?
9:44 pm: We will now see if Manning thumb is OK.
9:45 pm: I guess Manning’s thumb is just fine. He hits Clark again, and he takes it to the Pats 25. Unbelievable.
9:47 pm: Rhodes gets a good run, but Indy faces third and 5 from the 20.
9:48 pm: Indy tries to run, but is stopped short of the first. Vinatieri kicks a field goal to make it a 31-31 tie. If Indy wins, give a game ball to Hunter Smith, who has handled two disastrous snaps and made good holds out of them for Vinatieri to kick field goals.
9:50 pm: Ellis Hobbs gets another big kickoff return. The Pats have good position, and they will need to run out the clock to keep Indy from having a chance, but don;t tell them I said that.
9:52 pm: Thanks to a Daniel Graham catch, the Pats are again in field goal range.
9:53 pm: Indy breaks up a pass to the flat, and suddenly it’s third an 10 from the 29. They give it to the fullback who goes nowhere with it. They will likely kick another field goal.
9:54 pm: Gostkowski kicks a FIELD GOAL to give New England a 34-31 lead.
9:56 pm: You know a game is good when the network stop doing commercial breaks.
9:57 pm: Manning make two quick incompletions under pressure. It’s suddenly third down. If INdy doesn’t convert, then what? There’s less tham 4 minutes left.
9:58 pm: Indy is forced into a 3-and-out.They have little choice but to punt. The Colts need to prevent the touchdown and the clock from running out, or else it’s over.
10:02 pm: on third and 4, Brady’s pass is broken up by-guess who?- Bob Sanders. The Colts will get one final chance. They have 137 seconds, 1 timeout and 80 yards to work with. If not for a 5-yard penalty by the Pats, They have a first down and it’s over.
Forgive me, at this point I’ve stopped being a journalist and become a fan. Is that so wrong?
10:22 pm: Okay, I’m back. Here’s what happened:
- Manning throws a 10 yard pass to Wayne as he goes out of bounds.
- Peyton is under pressure, but he Fires a bullet downfield to an open wide receiver, who goes out of bounds at the 37 and allows one more play before the 2 minute warning.
- And what a play it was. Not only does Manning find Wayne in the middle at the 30, but he ran down to the 23, fumbled the ball in the air, and caught his own fumble while being dragged down.
- Manning gets another pass to Dallas Clark inside the 10.
- There is more than a minute and a half left in the game, so Indy decides to run out some clock by giving the ball to Joseph Addai. After two runs that take the ball to the two yard line, New England calls a timeout to preserve some clock.
- This sets up a big third and 2 at the 2 yard line. If indy doesn’t get the touchdown, they can still tie with a field goal. Ic ouldn’t believe it when they handed it off to Joseph Addai again and he ran it in for the TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWNNNN!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD OHH MYYYY GAAAAAAHHHHD!!! Indy takes the lead, 38-34. The comeback is finally complete. Tony Dungy is pumped, showing his first emotion, like, ever.
- You know the drill: Tom Brady has the ball, theres’ 1 minute left, championship on the line, the patriots drive past midfield, and then Brady makes the game-winning throw. We’ve heard this a million times before. Only this time the ball intercepted, which wins the game for Indy.
Indy wins the AFC! Peyton finally exorcises his demons, Dungy finally makes it so the Super Bowl, and he will face Lovie Smith of the Bears as the first black head coaches in the Super Bowl (which is about the third of a hundred thousand times you’re going to hear this in the next two weeks.
It was nearly impossible to believe after Manning threw the interception returned by Asante Samuel for a touchdown to make it 21-3, at which the script seemed all too familiar. This was a game for the ages.
Players of the Game not named Peyton Manning or Bob Sanders (obvious choices):
Joseph Addai. The entire season is on the line. You’re at home. It’s third and 2. Indy needs a touch down. The Colts may have the the best QB in the NFL taking the snap, and two of the best receivers in the league, and the best receiving tight end in the league. So Indy makes the logical decision is puts the most important play of the season in the hands of…a rookie running back. And he delivered. WOW.
Dallas Clark. Whenever the Colts needed a big reception, Dallas Clark was there to make the catch. He may not have caught any touchdowns, but Indy doesn’t win this game with any other player at tight end.
Hunter Smith. This is probably a name that won’t come up when discussing keys in this game. But the Colts long snapper botched two snaps. Hunter Smith, who holds for kicks, was able to handle the the bad snaps and allow Adam Vinatieri to make his field goals. If not for him, those two field goals would have been missed, the final touchdown would have left Indy stil down 34-31, forcing an onside kick, which New England recovers to win the game. That’s how important Hunter Smith was in this game.
The Janitor in Section 109: It was his idea to turn of the A/C in the RCA Dome. This led to the stadium becoming hot and humid, which in turn led to the Pats defenders cramping up. If the temperature was normal, the defense would have been more fresh and not allowed 38 points for the Colts offense. Sometimes games are decide by people who have nothing to do with either team. Give credit to whoever turned off the air conditioner in the Dome.
Reche Caldwell: He dropped two easy touchdown passes where he is wide open. If he catches either, Indy doesn’t come back. So thank you, Reche Caldwell. I guarantee you Belichick cuts Caldwell and drafts Dallas Baker.
Nothing will stop me from covering the Super Bowl on this blog, so tune in for that and next week’s College Basketball Week in Review.