Far be it from me to kick a man while he's down .... but .... I can't resist. I'm a classless, puppy-strangling, Belicheat-worshipping Pats fan and Colts hater.
The Manning Face is back!!
After watching the Colts, Giants, Yankees, Steelers and Lakers win titles the past few years, it was nice to watch one of them go down in flames. Peyton Manning threw a back-breaking interception in a huge moment and it made me feel that all is right in the world, at least for one night.
First, we can dispense with the idiotic "Colts are the Team of the Decade" talk for good. Ron Borges and other idiots were pressing this idea last week, assuming the Colts would roll to a championship. As Lee Corso would put it, not so fast. I could go into a spirited defense of the Patriots as the Team of the Decade, but that would be a waste of time, like arguing that Godfather III is better than Godfather I. Both were decent (at least) movies, but one was clearly better and anyone who says otherwise is either blinded by hatred, on drugs or related to Sofia Coppola.
So let's get to another topic, a somewhat annoying one: the Brady-Manning debate. It lingers and festers every season because it can be argued on both sides. To say Manning is better than Brady is foolhardy, but at least its defensible. But the talk all these playoffs, and especially the last two weeks, is that Manning is better than Brady, no questions asked, like some secret tribunal headed by Mark Malone and Amos Alonzo Stagg already made a ruling. Many bored writers went even further to say Manning is the best ever.
Here's an example. (Hilarious to read in hindsight.)
Manning has the numbers, but he's also played four more seasons, including Brady's missed 2008. While great in his own right, Manning has had several advantages. He's played in a passing system his whole career. He's always had Pro Bowlers surrounding him, from Edgerrin James to Marvin Harrison to Reggie Wayne to Dallas Clark. He plays in a dome and in a division with two expansion teams. Brady deals with harsh Northeast winter conditions in about half the games he plays each season. Brady won a Super Bowl with Jermaine Wiggins as his tight end, with Troy Brown as his leading receiver, with Antowain Smith as his running back. What have Deion Branch and David Givens done since Brady made them millions?
Brady brought a team with Reche Caldwell as its No. 1 receiver to within minutes of a Super Bowl. That says it all. And once the Pats surrounded Brady with top-of-the-line talent, he only had the greatest statistical season in NFL history and went 16-0. He would have been the hero of that Super Bowl if the defense held the lead. No back-breaking INTs in Super Bowls for Brady. Just two MVPs and almost a third.
Granted, Brady has been blessed with better defenses. And he certainly had a better head coach. But Manning has never lacked offensive talent, and his regular seasons are always eye-popping, hence his four MVPs.
But his playoff record - where legacies are made - looks like my ping-pong record.
9-9. (My ping-pong record is more like 9-7675.)
1999: One-and-done in the playoffs.
2000: Less than 200 yards passing. Last QB to lose a playoff game to the Dolphins.
2002: One-and-done again. Throws for 137 yards and two interceptions. Colts lose 41-0 ... to the Jets.
2003: Colts roll into Foxborough after two blowout wins in the playoffs. Everyone on ESPN puts them in Super Bowl. Manning throws four interceptions in a loss. Indy, which runs the Competition Committee, changes the rules in their favor after the loss.
2004: Colts roll into Foxborough after a blowout win. Everyone on ESPN puts them in Super Bowl. Manning throws zero touchdowns and a pick. Colts lose 20-3.
2005: Colts have No. 1 seed. NFL prepares to hand them the Lombardi Trophy before the playoffs start. Manning gets sacked five times in Indy's first playoff game, which is at home, and the Colts lose to the Steelers.
2006: Colts finally break through and win it all. Manning leads big comeback in AFC title game. I cry. Manning ends playoffs with 3 TDs and 7 INTs. Somehow named Super Bowl MVP when Dominic Rhodes rushes for 113 yards and a score.
2007: Colts have No. 1 seed again. Lose first playoff game ... again. Manning throws for 400 yards, but also has two picks. Blames offensive line for loss.
2008: Manning plays well, but Indy still suffers abbreviated playoff run after another loss to San Diego.
2009: Manning makes it to second Super Bowl, is called by several writers, including a few Boston ones, the greatest QB of all time. Throws pick-six with chance to tie game.
As you can see, his playoff record is not so hot, especially compared to Brady's. This still doesn't mean he isn't an all-time great, but can we put a halt to the coronation, please? He'll end up with more touchdowns, yards and MVPs than Brady, but he'll have a tough time winning more rings. The debate will rage on, no doubt. I will always side with my boy, Brady. Always. I will admit Peyton is better now, since he's not dealing with a reconstructed knee. It pains me to admit that, but it's true.
But I am in no pain today. After weeks and weeks of writers slobbering over Peyton, he returns to his old form just in time. Everything feels right.