By Jack Tumen
So…THAT game didn’t go as expected. But then again, what game ever does? I ended up going 1-1 on my picks over the weekend; this is the game I got right.
First and foremost, Peyton Manning is going to the Super Bowl and he beat Tom Brady to get there. I’m not really one to overhype the head to head rivalry these guys have, but in this case, it’s worth acknowledging.
This victory changes the entire complexion of the Brady-Manning debate. Those who back Brady usually argue that he gets it done in crunch time, he has three rings and that Peyton can’t win the big game when it matters. Those who back Manning usually argue that he’s the best regular season quarterback of all time, that Brady always had a better team around him and that Peyton still happens to have a ring.
Where do I stand on this? Give me Manning. The guy is his own offense. His pre-snap routine is one of the most beautiful things to watch in the game of football; he reads defenses like he’s Neo in the Matrix; he doesn’t even throw spirals and he brings charity to the city of Omaha.
Now all those Brady backers have one tough pill to swallow. Manning handed Brady his arse and the whole country watched. The “Brady doesn’t have the same amount of talent around him” argument doesn’t even come close to cutting it because Tom missed numerous wide open receivers; in particular the deep ball to Edelman early and the sideline pass to Collie before halftime, both of which had POINTS written all over them. Let’s break that down for a second. The deep ball would have been a touchdown; Edelman had his guy beat, and the sideline throw would have helped to set up a quick 3 before the half. Add it up: 10 points – the ultimate difference in this game. On a side note, why the hell did John Fox call a timeout there? Brady with 30 seconds and 2 timeouts?! Are you nuts?!
But this game was not vintage Brady. The entire time I’m sitting there thinking ok, so when’s Brady gonna make his move? The answer was never. By the time the Patriots offense woke up, they were down 20 with 12 minutes left in the game and when Brady finally decided to lift a finger, he lifted his pinky.
On top of Brady’s woes, Peyton was flawless; 32 of 43 for 400 yards and 2 touchdowns. His offense amassed 27 first downs and kept Brady on the sideline for what felt like forever. The key drive in this game, however, was Denver’s opening drive of the 3rd quarter; they held the ball for 7 minutes and capped it off with a TD, while the Patriots followed up by winding their next drive for 5 and a half minutes only to turn it over on downs.
The Denver D was also impeccable. They held the Pats’ offense to 64 total yards on the ground while making everyone forget that Legarrette Blount even existed (5 carries, 6 yards.) They were even bigger in key moments; Robert Ayers’ sack of Brady on 4th down was simply awesome. That’s a championship play.
Finally, let’s not forget to mention Knowshon Moreno. He’s graced this offense with balance all year. In this game, (14 carries, 59 yards) he nearly ran for as many yards as all the Patriots backs combined and probably would have if this offense ran the ball more. He had a huge 28 yard run on a 3rd and long that set up Denver’s first touchdown of the day and essentially broke the game open.
Regarding Wes Welker’s hit on Aqib Talib, it was a totally legal hit and I really don’t believe that Welker had any intent to injure. Talib happened to get hurt on the play and didn’t come back; that’s just part of the game of football. It happens all the time. This is a collision sport, not a pillow fight. It’s funny to me that Bill Belichick is whining about it days later. Hey, Bill, maybe if you had paid the guy, your team would be in the Super Bowl right now and you wouldn’t have had to watch Danny Amendola, the guy who was supposed to “replace” Wes Welker’s production, drop his one and only target of the AFC Championship Game!
So goes the tale of Manning-Brady XV. Will it be the last? Well, should Peyton choose to return for another season, there would in fact be a sixteenth chapter to this great rivalry as the AFC East plays the AFC West next season…
…But that’s next season. This season belongs to Manning.
Stay tuned for my breakdown of the NFCCG and predictions for SB48!