It was a great weekend in sports. The 49ers was gifted a much needed victory, UCLA football finally won convincingly, Pacquiao maintained his hold on his Ring mag pound for pound title, the Galaxy booked their place in the MLS final... and Peyton managed to put down his nemesis in memorable fashion.
In fact, the only team that didn't come through was US soccer in their friendly vs Slovakia but if I had to choose a team to lose, they were it. The game didn't mean much especially with Donovan out of the lineup (having just powered the Galaxy to victory the night before) among others. Plus, the US actually played a better game, created more chances and only lost on an iffy penalty call on Bornstein.
But, back to the topic at hand. The Patriots vs Colts was billed as this season's edition of Peyton vs Brady. However, I do think its interesting that whenever they talked about the battle of wits, it was always Belicheat vs Peyton, instead of mentioning Brady, or Caldwell for that matter. Anyway, I thought Andrea Kramer's poll of living HOF QBs was extremely interesting. When asked who they would rather have as their QB, 13 chose Manning, while only 2 chose Brady (Elway and Bradshaw on the strength of Brady's 3 titles) and 5 (including Montana, disappointingly) abstained. Thirteen of the15 most qualified judges of QB talent has more respect for Manning's ability than Brady. Obviously, this massively increases my respect for Peyton more than ever before.
It was a depressing game to watch until the 4th quarter. The Brady to Moss/Welker connection was unstoppable and there were times when the Colts defense was doing their best to not cover Moss. Since the Colts running game was nonexistent, Peyton had to be extremely accurate to score. Already being down double digits for most of the game, it didn't help that Peyton uncharacteristically threw a couple terrible interceptions in the 2nd half as well. Down 17 points in the 4th quarter? Not good. Well after a flurry of back and forth scores, the Colts were gifted a long gain on a borderline pass interference call. Then a Addai TD made it a 6 point game. Then the real fun began.
Brady took over the ball at his own 20 needing a first down to just about kill the game off. Strangely, the Pats burned a timeout before 1st down - something about not having the right personnel? Then, after a couple short gains and an incomplete, the Pats were faced with 4th and 2 with just over 2 minutes in the game. A first down would win the game. Belicheat burns his last timeout and decides to go for it. As soon as I saw Brady and the offense walk out there, I knew they weren't just going to try and draw the Colts offside. I knew Belicheat's arrogance had prompted him to go for the 1st down right then and there. If I was a betting man, I would've wagered that they would get their first down.
Colts blitzed and Brady quickly threw to Faulk, who bobbled the ball and was pushed backwards as he tried to control it. Looked to me that he got it, but the officials ruled it short of the first down. Unbelievable. Even worse, Belicheat didn't have any timeouts to pull an Andy Reid and challenge the spot, though the replays were inconclusive. Shocking. He had just made the kind of emotional and arrogant decision that you'd expect to see from a frustrated immature high schooler who got tired of getting hacked all game and tried to posterize somebody instead of dribbling out the clock. Pete Carroll made a similiar 4th down decision vs Texas in 2007 to lose that game. Afterwards, analysts rightly brought up the point that he would lose the confidence of his defense especially in the the next big moment of this season.
Facing a disheartened defense, the re-energized Peytons marched the 30 yards with ease while also masterfully wasting the clock until a Wayne double-move freed him up for a quick slant TD. Game over. Belicheat had snatched defeat from the hands of victory.
Had he opted to punt, Peyton would've had 2 minutes to march 60 or 70 yards. Is it possible that he would've still won the game? Yeah, possibly but remember he had thrown 2 interceptions to go along with the 2 TDs the Colts scored in the 2nd half. So, it was a 50-50 chance at best, or worst. I think that Belicheat knew that his defense was worn down but more than that, I think deep down, Belicheat didn't want to give Peyton the opportunity to be the hero. He would rather win the game based on his gutsy play-calling than give Peyton another game winning notch on his belt.
In the aftermath, Belicheat may be getting roasted nationally but I don't think his team will splinter the way many are predicting. I think the Patriots will still win their division and be a contender in January. True, they probably won't have home field advantage in the playoffs but if they come back to Indy then, the entire Pats squad will be fired up to avenge this bitter loss. That said, I'm glad Belicheat is getting blamed. Its about time ESPN's lovefest with the Pats stops.
The Sports Guy wrote an article recently talking about some of the sports figures he hates. He included Peyton into the list alongside A-Rod and Kobe. You gotta be kidding me. If anything, Brady is the one who belongs on the list with primadonnas A-Rod and Kobe. Nobody else tries to run up the score on other teams in garbage time like Brady does as if BCS votes depend on it and then reacts so bushleague. He's the one who whines and gets 15 yard flags called even when a defender doesn't even TOUCH him. Brady's also the one who is essentially a publicity chaser, dating and impregnating an actress only to dump her for, what is clearly a step up - a model. So no, The Sports Guy, Brady belongs with A-Rod and Kobe. He is, as they all are, just plain unlikable.
Peyton, on the other hand, will go down as maybe the greatest of all time. Not only is he the consummate professional, he also has revolutionized the way that the position of QB can be played. As 13 of the 15 most qualified authorities have attested to, there is no comparison.