BY MIKE WOLVERTON SPORTS GUY So, Colts and Saints in the Super Bowl. That should be pretty good. Lots of points and a decent chance of being close. Two awesome quarterbacks. No BrettFavre. I’m ready. A look back at how it happened yesterday…
Jets-Colts: 2010 was the year when I finally figured out to stop picking against Peyton Manning (took me long enough, I know). The guy knows what to do and how to do it. Take away his best receiver (Reggie Wayne) and he makes Pierre Garcon look like Marvin Harrison. The Jets had him on the run for a couple quarters (and led 17-6), but Peyton figured them out. And the Colts defense shut down the Jets, allowing zero 2nd half points. I thought Jets QB Mark Sanchez looked really good. What a great experience for him, it can only help his maturation. The Jets aren’t going away, and with the also-rising Dolphins and not-dead-yet Patriots, the AFC East will be one of the league’s most interesting divisions in the next few years.
Best play: Manning’s throw to Garcon in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown that gave the Colts a 20-17 lead. Perfect touch on a difficult throw, just over the defender and barely inbounds. Nice catch too.
Best fumble recovery: Reggie Wayne’s fumble bounced right back to him. Really, really lucky. The Colts were starting to take control and this could have changed everything. Instead Indy went down the field for the score that iced it.
Most shocking moment: I finally saw Jets tight end Dustin Keller with his helmet off. Dustin Keller is black? DUSTIN? That’s as likely as finding a Japanese guy named LeShonn.
Vikings-Saints: Yes, this game was dramatic, but I can’t say either team looked great. The Vikings took it up and down the field on New Orleans (475 yards to 257), but five turnovers are always going to hose you. I started wondering if this would go down as “The Fumble Game”, and that was with three fumbles still to come! [The Vikings fumbled six times, losing three; the Saints lost one of their three bobbles]. Minnesota pissed away chance after chance, twice coughing it up within ten yards of the end zone. I’m not sure New Orleans will be able to count on the Colts being so generous.
Best play: Visanthe Shiancoe’s 1-handed haul at the two-yard line to set up the Vikings’ TD that tied the score at 21. When Favre needed a play, he usually found Shiancoe.
Best fumble recovery: This is like picking Biggest Imbecile in Seaside Heights, so many to choose from. Honorable mention to Remy Ayodele for his fattest-guy-on-the-field-makes-smooth-running-pickup move. So much for falling on the ball. But the award goes to Adrian Peterson for his miraculous recovery of his 3rd bungle of the game. That was probably the best fumble recovery I’ve ever seen, regardless of context, and it came in the 3rd quarter of a tied NFC Championship Game. So in the process of fumbling for the third time (technically twice, one other was credited toFavre ), I gained a ton of respect for Peterson on that play. Not like he needs my respect. And AP bounced back to have a touchdown and several explosive runs.
Least Shocking Moment: Brett Favre found an opportunity to gimp off the field in the 3rd quarter…surely there would have been a sunset if the game hadn’t been in a dome. Favre received help getting off the field, and was later seen on a cart with his shoe off, getting his ankle checked out and holding his head in seeming agony. I couldn’t help but think I was being set up for the inevitable “Here Comes Brett Favre back onto the field… dag gum if he ain’t the toughest quarterback I ever seen” moment. The trainers missed a perfect chance to slip a prefabricated bloody sock back on Brett’s foot after the re-tape. I couldn’t believe FOX was still in commercial when The Courageous Warrior gamely limped back onto the field, milking every stride. I thought they’d have something heroic from John Tesh already cued up. Maybe Brett really did have a hurtie, but he’s lost a bit of his credibility with me.
Tied at 28 with just over a minute left, the Vikings reached the Saints 33-yard line, the outside edge of field goal range. They ran for no gain on first down, a good call, and bled much of the remaining time to prevent the Saints from getting the ball back. But running on 2nd down was a mistake; I thought they should have gone for the jugular. Why settle for a very long field goal? When that play didn’t net any yards, and an ensuing penalty set them further back, the Vikings entered a clear passing situation, and the ready Saints defense intercepted Brett Favre. And that would be the last pass from The Ol’ Gunslinger.
The overtime sucked. The winning Saints drive had a couple of penalties and no fewer than three replay booth delays. In our ongoing quest for officiating perfection, we’ve allowed a situation where the overtime of a potential classic is ground to a halt by replay review of the spot of the ball on consecutive plays. The human experts that are standing on the field can do that better than someone watching slightly-off-angle video replays (notice neither spot was corrected). If micro-accuracy is that important, just put a chip in the football and be done with it. Enough intrusive technology.
The ending will provoke more debate about the NFL’s overtime rules, because again the team that won the coin flip scored and triumphed on their first possession. Here’s an idea, at least for the playoffs if not the regular season: overtime is ten minutes, and the team ahead after ten minutes wins. If tied after ten minutes, whoever has the ball keeps it and play continues from that point, sudden death. What, too simple? It would have been better than what we got Sunday. Love him or loathe him, for the sake of the drama you wanted to see Brett Favre have a chance in overtime. Maybe that will be a fitting epitaph, “He never got the ball”.