Tale of Two Halves

Tale of Two Halves

Last week I said the Patriots’ game against the San Diego Chargers was the Tale of Two Bradys, the one who played so poorly in the first half and the one who engineered a “by the hair of their chin” come-from-behind win. But as last night’s AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts came to end with Indy playing the part of the underdog Pats of previous seasons, I thought that this was the Tale of Two Halves: the first half of the game where the whole Patriots team manhandled the Colts until it wasn’t even as close as the 21-6 score said as they went to the locker rooms; and the second half where the Colts ran up more than 300 yards of offense, monopolized the possession clock, and staged the greatest come-from-behind win in AFC Championship history.

So what happened, all of New England is asking today. First, let’s recognize that the Colts were perhaps the best team in the league this year. Recall that they started off winning 9 games in a row and losing not a single game at home. And while their regular season defense was porous to the run, at best, their post-season defense became championship calibre.

But in the first half, it appeared none of that mattered. At one point, the Pats had pinned the Colts against their own goal line and sacked quarterback Peyton Manning two plays in a row. Pats cornerback Asante Samuel had picked off Manning for a touchdown interception. Neither future Hall-of-Fame wide receiver nor his nearly-as-talented battery-mate Reggie Wayne could catch a pass.

Then came the second half and the Colts came roaring out of the locker room. Instead of throwing it down the field, the Colts played dink and dunk, short passes across the middle and slanting to the sidelines that couldn’t be stopped. Meanwhile running back Joseph Addai hammered the Patriots’ line down the middle, picking up nearly 100 yards in the third quarter alone.

The Patriots defense, for their part looked exhausted. The team had been hit by the flu this week and may also have suffered the after effects of jet lag flying back from San Diego last week. Plus the RCA Dome was apparently very hot, the Colts using the home field to their advantage. And the Patriots’ defense, built for size not speed, was looking gassed. With a hurry-up offense preventing substitutions, the defense couldn’t get off the field. I think that Tony Dungy knew that if he could last through the first half and not get behind too many points, his game plan would wear out the defense and give Manning and the offense an opportunity to come roaring back.

The fact that the offense couldn’t get anything going didn’t help either. The reality is that if not for a few bad plays, the Patriots still could have won. Reche Caldwell, in particular, was lined up at one point without a defender between him and the end zone 17 yards away. This was a potentially fatal error by the Colts, yet when Brady threw the ball to Caldwell, the receiver couldn’t catch it. There is no easier reception in all of football, and I’m sure that one will haunt his memories for a while.

In the end, the better team won. The Indianapolis Colts were the class of the NFL this year and they deserve to go to the Super Bowl. Maybe now we can stop with all the talk about Peyton Manning being the best quarterback never to go to the SB or that he couldn’t win the big game. 

I’m especially grateful, however, that it wasn’t an Adam Vinatieri field goal that won the game. I don’t think I could bear hearing all the New England angst over that. Congrats to the Colts and their fans. I know one Catholic priest in particular in Pensacola, Florida, who is dancing on air today, having endured more than his share of ribbing from Pats fans while attending seminary in Massachusetts the first half of this decade. Kudos to you, Fr. Chuck! 

Now as for the Super Bowl, my prediction is easy. The Colts are going to win. Sorry, Chicago fans, but the Colts have got it and Rex Grossman does not.

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  • Chicago’s two running backs put up 190 yards against N.O.  What are they going to do against the worst run defense in the NFL?  P.S. Peyton Manning may want to get his organ donor card filled out before the game.

  • This game reminded me of the ALCS series when the Red Sox came back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees. This time the Colts were the Red Sox and the Pats were the Yankees(yuck).

  • It will be hard for the Superbowl to top that game.

    As for predictions I have no dog in this fight. The colts have choked a bunch of championship games, so how they will do in the Superbowl is open to question. But then again the same goes for the bears that haven’t played many bigs ones in the last 21 years.