Sunday, January 15, 2006

Peyton Manning Face
By Zach

One of the most surreal NFL games I've ever seen just ended. I spent much of the second half talking with various members of the Sportszilla team, trying to figure out what was going on. Here are some of my thoughts:

Editor's Note: Added on 1/16

-I think the big issue with Peyton and the control he’s given over the offense is that, like most top athletes, he has an inflated view of his abilities. In order to be a top NFL QB, he has to think he can make any throw, can convert in any tough situation, and so on. That’s fine when he’s running the plays and executing the strategy and gameplan the more dispassionate coaching staff has called, but it’s a problem when he’s constantly changing calls and waving the punting team off the field. As a counterpoint, look at what Matt Hasselbeck did against Washington on Saturday. Facing an all-out blitz on third-and-six, instead of putting the game in his own hands, as he would certainly be justified in doing as a Pro-Bowl QB, he audibles to a run to a 34-year-old fullback.

Obviously, Manning has all the talent in the world. And we know he has a great understanding of football. But he also has a (necessarily) large ego, and that ego needs to be checked by an offensive coordinator. Unfortunately for the Colts, the myth of Manning has grown so large that it seems like it would be hard to take some of the power out of his hands, though it seems necessary at this point.

We now return you to the original post

-Please, can the Jerome Bettis love-fest end? So what if a 275-pound lardass can run a yard or two for a touchdown? He's unbelievably lucky that idiot kicker Mike Vander-tool choked on a 46-yard figgie, because fumbling in that situation was utterly inexcusable. Sure, he's a borderline Hall of Famer (though I have a hard time saying he should be in the HoF because he was good for so no point was he one of the top 5 backs in the NFL. In his 13 NFL seasons, he averaged 4.0 yards per carry four times), but now he's just an old, fat guy who does asthma commercials.

-If Peyton Manning thought he'd heard criticisms in previous offseasons, he has no idea what's in store for him. He got bailed out big time on the Troy Polamalu "drop," which will get its own bullet point in a second, and his play for most of the game was unimpressive. It's clear that Pittsburgh's pressure rattled him, and he only really looked comfortable on one or two late drives. On the final drive, he made a bad decision on the third-and-two play when he nearly got picked off trying to pick up 15 or so yards. Cut the macho BS, dump the ball off for the first, and make things easier for your idiot kicker.

-Along with that, could any coach be more emasculated than Tony Dungy? Why do you let one of your players override your authority? How can Manning call off the punt team deep in your territory? As Matt Millen once said, "where are your testicles, man?" He also made a terrible decision on the fourth-and-sixteen late in the game, when, with 3 timeouts left and backed inside your own 20, he should have punted. He, like the rest of the Colts, were outplayed and outcoached the entire game.

-The overturn of the Polamalu INT was the worst call I've seen in the instant-replay era. Talking with sometimes-contributor John Schmeelk, we decided that it's inevitable that the NFL will trot out some dubious rule that doesn't really explain how a blatantly obvious call could be reversed. If there is such a rule, it must be changed. And my good buddy Aaron also pointed out that it will be used as rationale to revamp or get rid of instant replay, because as he correctly pointed out, why should a correct call on the field be overturned? Edited: The NFL has said that the incorrect call was made on the field...isn't it a problem when the officials don't know the rules?

-Bill Cowher was a strange mix of aggressive and conservative late in the game. On the one hand, he went for a pair of fourth-and-ones on a drive early in the quarter, which I thought were good decisions. On the other hand, he didn't run nearly enough play-action passes once the Colts were stacking eight or nine guys in the box. I think Cowher is a fine coach, but there's a reason his teams have repeatedly fallen short in the playoffs. Speaking of which, maybe the problem for the Steelers all these years is that they've been playing at home: they'll have another chance in an AFC Championship game, this time in Denver.

-I can't tell you how glad I am we've avoided a Patriots-Colts AFC Championship game. This year's Patriot team just wasn't good enough (in part of course because of the injuries), while it makes me feel good to know that no matter how good he may be in the regular season, Peyton Manning will always give people reasons to publish articles like this.

-Aaron and I were talking after the game, and we both agreed that neither of us had ever seen a football quite like that one. It wasn't a great game, but when you factor in all the twists and turns, it was certainly memorbable. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling towards the end that first, it shouldn't have been that close, and second, the coaches were not at all in control of their teams. The sense of desperation from both teams was palpable.

We know the Broncos will be hosting the Steelers next weekend. If I had my druthers, I'd prefer to see the Bears coming to Qwest Field, but that, of course, remains to be seen.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Peyton Manning is a fine quarterback and a true winner. Everyone needs to leave the man alone and let him do what he does best Play Football, at least he was in the playoffs.

2:55 PM  

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