Thatís how Peyton Manning described the game of his career, a 38-34 come-from-behind thriller over his nemesis Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the game that sends his Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl in two weeks to face the Chicago Bears. ( Mastrick’s Bears’ Super Bowl preview here)
Witnessing their Colts fall behind 21-3 early in the 2nd quarter, the home crowd seemed shell shocked as fears of repeat disappointment of past AFC Championships loomed on the horizon.
This time it was different. Manningía final drive before halftime revealed a chink in the Patriotís armor, a tendency for the big defensive line to get tired. So instead of calling a myriad of timeouts which would have given the Patriotís D a chance to recover between plays, Peyton and company trudged on in a relentless pursuit of history. They settled for a field goal, cutting the lead to 21-6 with the prospect of getting the ball first in the second half.
Just after the intermission, the Colts picked up where they left off, establishing a rhythm that would result in 32 points in the 3rd and 4th quarters against a Patriot defense that ranked among the elite in the NFL this year.
But it was the Indy defense that would come up big. With time running out and leading 34-31, all Brady had to do was get a fresh set of downs or two to ice the victory and the 4th Super Bowl appearance for his Pats in the last 5 years. Bob Sanders, perhaps the Colts MVP in the playoffs, tipped the ball on 3rd and four, forcing a punt and giving Peyton one more chance to exorcise a few demons that have plagued him for his entire professional and collegiate career.
With a minute left on the clock, rookie Joseph Addai waltzed into the end zone, giving the Colts their first lead of the evening. It was all they needed as another defensive gem, an interception, sealed the deal and kept Brady from one of his patented miracles.
Tony Dungy and the Colts will be joining close friend Lovee Smith and the Bears in Miami, a historic moment as no black coach has ever been in The Game. And to think, now there will be two. Both classy gentlemen. Both classy organizations.
This is definitely going to be something special.