Indianapolis Colts Fail to Secure Franchise, Enter The Pros And Cons Of Kerry Collins. By Barry Barnes

 

What a wake up call for the Indianapolis Colts

After years of not preparing for this day, a day when their prized possession in quarterback Peyton Manning would be hampered by an injury or defeated by father time, causing his dynamic NFL career to take a turn. The Colts may be revisited by losing days earlier than expected.  Continue reading

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2010 NFL Wildcard Round: NY Jets – Colts

New York Jets “Slash” Brad Smith should be a key player when the J-E-T-S take on the Colts in a rematch of the 2009 AFC Championship Game

New York Jets (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (10-6), Saturday Jan. 8th, 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Broadcast Team: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Andrea Kremer (Field Reporter)

The pressure is on for both the  Colts and NY Jets as these two teams that entered the 2010 NFL Season with high expectations had a bumpier ride to the postseason than expected. This one will be a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game and revenge will be in the air as New York will look to avenge the Colts’ 30-17 victory that sent them to Super Bowl XLIV a year ago.  Jets TE Dustin Keller said of the opportunity to face the Colts in the postseason again, “It’s an opportunity to get back at them. We owe them one.  They got us last year.”

The NY Jets are a tough physical team that loves to run the football — NFL’s No. 4 rushing attack –with emerging running back Shonn Greene (304 yards in the 2009 playoffs) and veteran LaDainian Tomlinson  Plus Gang Green also features an attacking defense led by shutdown corner Darrelle Revis.  Speaking of the Jets’ defense, their coach who loves to do the talking for his players had a lot to say going into this one.  New York brash head coach Rex Ryan said of facing the Colts in the playoffs, “We are not going to Indianapolis to lose, we are going there to win.  That’s our mentality and always will be.  I believe in our football team.  I know that’s an excellent football team we’re going to play but they’re getting our best shot.  This will be a great game and as long as the Jets win, I’ll sign up for it.”  But these are the Colts and the defending AFC champions are return to the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, tying the Dallas Cowboys (1975-83) for the most postseason appearances in a row. 

If the Colts are to succeed, QB Peyton Manning (regular season stats: 450-679, 4700 yards (2nd in NFL), 33 TDs (2nd in the NFL), 17 INTs, and a 91.9 QB rating) will need to protect the football and make some plays down the field to his remaining healthy weapons including WR Reggie Wayne, TE Jacob Tamme (67 rec,  631 yards and 4 TDs in 10 games since replacing starter Dallas Clark), and WR Pierre Garcon.  Even as good as Manning and his offensive passing weapons are, the Colts must find a running game to keep the Jets from pinning their ears back on every play – allowed an NFL 3rd best 291.5 yards per game.  Running backs Joseph Addai, Dommenick Rhodes (back from UFL and averaged almost 5 yards per carry in 3 games back) and Donald Brown will need to find a way to move the chains against the Jets’ high level tackling team.  The Jets can get pressure from variety of places (LB Jason Taylor,  LB Bryan Thomas, and others) and their goal is to make Manning have “happy feet” by hitting him on every pass play – ala Rex Ryan’s Father Buddy Ryan’s former Eagles defenses of the late 1980’s – so Revis and cornerback partner Antonio Cromartie (3 INTs) can get turnovers. 

On defense, Indianapolis will need another strong defensive performance, like in their 2009 AFC Championship win over the NY Jets, this Saturday. The Colts will have to apply pressure from Pro Bowl DE’s Robert Mathis (1 sacks) and Dwight Freeney as Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez (regular season stats: 278-507, 3291 yards, 17 TDs, 13 INTs and 75.3 QB rating) has been known to turn the football over when uncomfortable in the pocket.  The goal of Jets’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is to pound the rock with his huge offensive line filled with current and former Pro Bowl players (center Nick Mangold,  OT Damien Woody, and OT D’Brickshaw Ferguson) while making the youngster throw 25 times or less, especially since Sanchez is working through a very bad bruised throwing shoulder.  The Jets love to use their ground attack to setup Sanchez – who guided his team to the postseason for the 2nd consecutive year – throwing downfield to big play receiver and former Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes. However Freeney and the rest of the Colts small and quick defense more than likely have a plan to shutdown L.T and Greene.  Also watch for Keller against the Colts’ Cover 2 defense as their secondary is beat-up (starting two backup corners), but watch for former Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea to make some plays too.

There is no love lost between these two teams going back a ways  as the Jets will forever be known as the team that put the AFL on the map in 1968 by beating the old Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in Miami, Florida.  These two teams have met three other times in the postseason with the Jets’ currently holding a 2-1 edge, but the Colts own a 40-26 edge in the regular season series and have won 7 of their last 10 against the J-E-T-S.  I fully expect a close game as the Colts needed 24 unanswered points after trailing by a deficit of 17-6 late in the 2nd quarter of the aforementioned 2009 AFC Championship Game.

Watch for Jets Wildcat QB/receiver Brad Smith, a former dual threat passer at Missouri, in this battle as he connected with receiver Jerricho Cotchery for a 45-yard pass and ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in last season’s playoff tilt.   Smith also was second in the NFL in kick returns, finishing the season with an average of 28.6 yards. As always turnovers –Colts were 8-1 in 2010 when Manning didn’t throw an INT and 0-4 when he had at least 2 INTs – and special teams will be huge factors in this one.  Speaking of turnovers, the Jets clearly have the edge as they are (+9) in turnover ratio while the Colts are a (-4) even though they have been protecting the ball at the end of the 2010 regular season.  And if we are talking about special teams, this game features to of the better kickers in the NFL  (Jets’ Nick Folk, 127 points and Colts Super Bowl hero Adam Vinateri, 129 points).

 LV’s Pick: There is no doubt this game is going to be close as both teams are not as explosive as last season.  Injuries have hurt both squads, but neither will make any excuses when they line it up on Saturday Night.  However when I look at this match-up, there is one name that matters, Peyton Manning.  Yes, I know he is only 9-9 lifetime in the playoffs, but this guy is the NFL’s ultimate competitor.  Manning and the rest of the Colts will move their current winning streak to five games as they head to New England  for another heated match-up with the hated Patriots.  Watch for “ice water” Vinateri in crunch time — Colts win 27-24

 

 Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Audio from Eagles-Colts

Checkout just how informative Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was in his postgame press conference after the Colts-Eagles game in Philly

Here is the audio collected by NFL Insider Lloyd Vance  at the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9 of the 2010 NFL Regular Season.

Peyton Manning Press Conference

Andy Reid Press Conference (Part 1)

Andy Reid Press Conference (Part 2)

Michael Vick Press Conference

Colts WR Blair White in the lockerroom

Game Report: Eagles Outlast Colts 26-24 in a Thrilling Game

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was back in action as Philadelphia outlasted the Indianapolis Colts in a thrilling game

Someone’s streak had to end…either Colts QB Peyton Manning would continue his mastery over Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid (No. 18 was 3-0 against Big Red including a couple blowouts) or the Eagles would finally lose after a bye for first time under Reid (11-0 going into the game). 

Well, the later happened, as the Eagles finally showed Peyton that they were indeed not afraid of the Future Hall of Famer – well maybe just a little bit.  Philadelphia won 26-24 in front of a raucous sellout home crowd of 69,144 who were not able to leave until the game’s final seconds had finally ticked off the clock.

The final score definitely did not do this exciting game any justice as Eagles fans, players, and even some of their coaches had to collectively hold their breath at the end.  Probably the NFL’s best quarterback had the ball and was only 2-points down with :40 seconds on the clock.  Manning looked like he was going to pull another one of his patented shotgun induced comeback wins. 

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said of the urgency of Manning having the ball at the end of the game, “Any time Peyton Manning has the ball, you think he is going to score a touchdowns”. It seemed that way as Manning moved his team from the Indy 26-yard line to their 41-yard line (about 20 yards from a potential Adam Vinateri game-winner, until Eagles aggressive cornerback Asante Samuel (2 INTs) stepped-in with a game closing interception. 

After the game, Manning (31-52, 294 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs) even admitted that he may have forced some things in the Colts’ last drive.  But in his defense, he was just trying to get into field goal range to get former Super Bowl hero kicker Vinateri an opportunity to win the game.   The game’s finish was fast and furious.  But the game also will be remembered for being extremely long –almost 4 hours — as there were 21 penalties including a whopping 14 for 125 yards against the Eagles.

Unfortunately, there also was an extremely scary moment in the game too.  Colts receiver Austin Collie had to be taken off on a stretcher late in the second quarter after a combined big hit by safeties Quintin Mikell and Kurt Coleman on a bang-bang play.  On the play Manning threw over the middle and Collie while reaching for the pass was hit first by Mikell (shoulder hit) then Coleman, who unfortunately for his wallet, appeared to hit the young Colts’ receiver helmet-to-helmet. 

Collie went down immediately and appeared to fumble, but the officials called an unnecessary roughness penalty on Mikell — why was he even “flagged” as the big hitter on the play?  The 2nd-year receiver from BYU laid on the turf for some time and was eventually taken off on a stretcher after several anxious minutes.  Later we learned that Collie had a concussion, but was sitting upright and had movement in his limbs, which was some welcomed news.  The interesting thing was after the Collie situation, the Eagles seemed to go into a minnie funk as Indianapolis scored before the half to take a 17-16 halftime lead.

But there still was plenty of fight left in the Eagles (5-3) and two huge reasons for the Birds’ success were the healthy returns of Vick and WR DeSean Jackson. Unfortunately for the Colts, they were not so lucky in the injury department –were missing 8 starters .  And they did not have anyone close to the Eagles’ dynamic duo returning from injury.  Any questions of Reid going back to former starter Kevin Kolb were quelled as Vick was awesome as he out-dueled Manning in a game that showed he was truly back.

Vick showed why Reid had so much faith in him as the Eagles’ starter despite missing several games with a rib injury was back to his speedy self.  Vick ’02 was in the house as the former 3-time Pro Bowl player was making timely throws from the pocket and getting away from defensive pressure by using his highlight reel legs.  Vick finished with passing numbers 17-29, 218 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs with an additional 74 yards and 1 TD rushing, while being in total control of the pocket.

Vick also was able to effectively run outside the pocket plus avoided the “big hits” that caused him to be miss Philadelphia’s last couple games. No. 7 really is back as you could see a vapor trail off his cleats on a scintillating 32-yard scamper on a key 3rd down.  Jackson seemed to also feed off  his quarterback joining him in returning to the starting lineup.  The Eagles mercurial receiver showed no ill affects from his earlier concussion and Vick looked for him early and often in key situations.  D-Jax finished with 7 catches (8 targets) for 109 yards and 1 touchdown plus he contributed 20 yards rushing on 3 carries.

 However Eagles’ fans praise should not just end with Vick and Jackson as their defense, which came under fire after a 27-point fourth quarter collapse in Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans, put up a great effort too.  Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had to feel some vindication as his unit forced two turnovers, sacked Manning three times, and held the four-time MVP to a 65.7 quarterback rating.  The key for the Eagles’ defense definitely was their ability to not allow Manning a clean pocket as he was constantly hit and had to pass on the move (not his strength) several times. 

The numbers weren’t the best for McDermott’s unit –Philadelphia allowed 338 total yards and 26 first downs.  But all that matters is that they did enough to get the “W” and now the Eagles have a record of 5-3 and are solidly in the hunt for a playoff spot in the wide-open NFC.  The win over the tough 2009 AFC Champion Colts — have won 12 games for 7 consecutive years, which is an NFL record – also showed that the Eagles have the mettle to compete with any team in the league.  Manning said after the game, “You have to give Philadelphia a lot of credit”. 

Up next is a crucial NFC East road battle against the Washington Redskins (4-4) on Monday Night Football.  And did I mention that former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb will be leading the Redskins –  at least we think he will unless head coach Mike Shanahan wants to go with “superstar” backup Rex Grossman again in a crucial situation — as they go for a season sweep of the Birds.  McDermott said of the win in the lockerroom after the game, “It is a confidence booster, but now we have to get ready for the next one”.

Vick said of his team’s victory, “This game was more emotional because we knew how tough it was going to be to win this game. It took two weeks of hard work, guys working extra hard, watching film and doing whatever it takes. To win this game was very gratifying.”

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Colts’ M*A*S*H Unit Gets Ready for Texans’ Rematch

Former Colts’ reserve running back Mike Hart and the rest of the team’s backups will need to step-up as injuries are mounting in Indy

With an eye on getting “revenge” on the Houston Texans in a crucial Monday Night Football AFC South grudge match at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) are dealing with a slue of injuries.  Right now it is “Next Man Up” time in Indy and superstar quarterback Peyton Manning has to be looking around the team’s lockerroom and saying, “Who are these guys?”

There is no doubt that injuries are a huge part of life in the NFL.  Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles have suffered 6 concussions on their roster in 2010 and the Packers also have resembled a M*A*S*H unit at times – lost franchise RB Ryan Grant in Week 1 and it was downhill from there in terms of injuries.  But after seven weeks of play, the Colts should be crying more about the “injury bug” than probably any other NFL team.

Here is a list of some of the injuries and to say the least many of the players listed were considered core team members when the season started.  TE Dallas Clark (Wrist – I/R), WR Austin Collie (right thumb injury  – 4 to 6 Weeks), RB Joseph Addai (Shoulder – Indefinite), Safety / Special teams co-captain Melvin Bullitt (knee – I/R), safety Bob Sanders (bicep – indefinite), OT Charles Johnson (foot – questionable), LB WR Anthony Gonzalez (ankle – should be back for WK8), RB Donald Brown (hamstring – should be back for WK8), rookie LB Kavell Conner (foot – I/R), and too many others for GM Bill Polian and Caldwell’s liking – had 18 players listed on their Week 5 Injury Report.

And to make matters worse for their in Week 8 game, punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee will be serving a team-mandated 1-game suspension resulting from his Oct. 20 arrest on a public intoxication incident. Free agent Jeremy Kapinos, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, will step in this week to do the punting duties and veteran Adam Vinateri will handle the kickoff duties.

Colts’ head coach Jim Caldwell said of the team’s many injuries, “I call it the ‘Gideon Principle’ in this league.” He added, “At some point in time, you get pared down to the absolute bare minimum. So you see who can stand tall and who can function in their present circumstances.”

So far this season, Manning (passing numbers 171-254, 1916 yards, 67.3%, 13 TDs, 2 INTs, and a rating of 103.4) has looked like he is in the running for an NFL-record 5th MVP award.  But now he will need non-household players like TE Jacob Tamme, TE Blair White and RB Mike Hart to help out in the starting line-up.  The Colts’ 2nd teamers will also have to help out wherever the coaches need their services including special teams and filling-in for injured starters.  Even former Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea has been called upon to help out on special teams as the Colts need help from everyone.

The Colts will surely be looking to show not only the AFC South, but the entire league that after a bye week, they are ready to put up more of a fight against the surging Texans (4-2).  In Week 1, the Texans out-physicaled the Colts in a dominating home victory — improved to 2-15 all-time vs. Indianapolis.  The breakout star of the game was unheralded, at the time, running back Arian Foster who rushed the ball 33 times for 231 yards and three touchdowns.  Houston out-rushed Indy 257-44, setting a franchise record for most rushing yards in Texans’ franchise history and most rushing yards allowed in Colts’ franchise history.

Texans QB Matt Schaub only had to throw 17 times as Houston dominated up front.  The one bright spot for the Colts from their Week 1 loss was that they were able to move the ball against the Texans’ defense — currently ranked 32nd in the NFL.  Despite poor O-line play at times, penalties, and dropped passes, Indianapolis put up 463 total yards.  And their last three drives of the game showed that they were coming back after being down 20-10 after three quarters. Produced two touchdowns and another drive where WR Pierre Garcon fumbled inside the Texans’ 10.  We will see this time if Manning and his backup crew can overcome the Texans attacking defense – Houston will be without LB DeMeco Ryans (Achilles – I/R) – to get a playoff implication type win. 

Caldwell said of the challenge of playing through so many injuries, “My job is to win, plain and simple… I have to deal with the here and now, what we have to play with. The guys we have, have plenty of talent. We have more than enough to get it done.”

The biggest keys for the Colts, in my opinion, will be their ability to run the ball with Hart and company – ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing at only 94.8 yards per game – and stopping the run on defense (ranked 26th as Indy has allowed an average of 137.3 yards per game).

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Super Bowl XLIV Review: The Cinderella Saints win their first championship by Lloyd Vance

The 2009 NFL Season culminated with the formerly hard luck New Orleans hoisting their first Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLIV

From beginning to end the NFL’s 90th season titled “Own the Moment” seemed destined to have a climatic ending and Super Bowl XLIV followed that same pattern.  Somewhere pigs have got to be flying as the New Orleans Saints (16-3), formerly known as the “Aints”, put a big bow on the 2009 NFL Season with a remarkable 31-17 win over the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts (16-3) to bring home New Orleans’ first Super Bowl title..

In the “Year of the Quarterback”, Saints quarterback Drew Brees (32-39, 288 yards, 2  TDs, 0 Ints, and a 114.5 passer rating) willed his team to football’s ultimate prize by being cool and calm in the pocket.  Brees tied a Super Bowl record with 32 completions, the last a 2-yard slant to TE Jeremy Shockey for the winning points with 5:42 remaining. New Orleans became the just the second team to overcome a 10-point deficit to win the Super Bowl and in true storybook fashion, Brees was named the MVP of the game. 

Yes, the glass slipper fit Cinderella’s foot as Saints’ fans, who once wore paper bags over their heads in the early ‘90s, congregated in the French Quarter to celebrate.  The win brought overwhelming pride to a region that is still pulling itself together from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  But before the final brush strokes are finished on the 2009 NFL Season and New Orleans miraculous tale is told over and over again, Super Bowl XLIV must be rehashed.

In the most watched television show ever — 105.97 million viewers (most since the MASH finale in 1983 — young head coach Sean Payton’s team reached the mountain top by displaying “guts”.  After a slow first quarter in which the Colts powered by quarterback Peyton Manning (31-45, 333 yards, 1 TD, and one costly interception) appeared ready to run away with the game including a 96-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter tied the 1985 Bears (Super Bowl XX) for the longest in Super Bowl history. 

However the Saints showed gumption late in the second half and never looked back.  The Saints could have folded after failing to score deep in Colts territory on a 4th and goal play.  But Payton and Brees put their disappoint aside by leading the Saints on a long half ending drive that ended with Garrett Hartley’s 44-yard field goal.

Hartley’s field goal left the score at halftime at 10-6 in favor of the Colts and everyone anticipated that once “The Who” finished their halftime set, that Manning and the Colts would close the door on the Cinderella Saints.  But a play that will forever live in Super Bowl lore changed the course of this game.  With the Colts offense that quickly piled up 10 points in a dominant 1st quarter ready to get back on the field, Payton thumbed his nose at conventional wisdom. 

Payton gambled with an onside kick to open the second half. After Colts backup receiver Hank Baskett bobbled the ball and the biggest scrum to end all scrums, the Saints changed destiny by recovering the onside kick.  With that one play, momentum forever swung in the Saints favor.  Just six plays later, Saints RB Pierre Thomas slammed into the endzone to give the Saints a 13-10 lead.

During the span from the end of the 2nd quarter to Thomas’ score, the Saints held the ball for 26 straight plays and kept the Colts’ high-powered offense off the field for over 70 minutes including halftime.  During this timeframe, the Colts offense got cold and their defense became tired.  The biggest loss was that the miraculous return of feared Colts DE Dwight Freeney from a much-reported about ankle injury was basically over after halftime.  But the Colts, who have won an NFL record 12 games for 7 consecutive seasons, did not gently go into the night as Manning still had some fight left in him.

The 4-time NFL MVP responded by leading his team on a 10-play, 76 yard drive that ended with Colts RB Joseph Addai scoring on a tough 4-yard run as the Colts looked be back in control 17-13.  But the Colts’ fortunes after Addai’s score were all downhill from there.  First, NFC Championship game hero Hartley connected on his Super Bowl record 3rd field goal of 40 yards of more from a distance of 47 yards to cut the score to 17-16. 

Then the Colts thought that their ancient kicker Matt Stover could equal the youngster, but the 42-year old veteran wasn’t even close as he missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.  With Brees finding his rhythm, the Saints took advantage of the short field that Colts head  coach Jim Caldwell had handed them.  New Orleans marched 59 yards to regain a 23-17 lead on Shockey’s catch in traffic.

But Payton, who was hot all night, had one last gamble in his pocket.  The former Bill Parcels disciple seized the day by going for a two-point conversion to give the Saints a 7-point lead.  Another play, that many would point to later as one of the biggest plays of the game, Brees found receiver Lance Moore near the front corner of the endzone.  Initially, the play was ruled incomplete, but upon review it emerged that Moore had possession of the ball and extended it over the goal-line before a Colts’ player knocked it out of his hands.

But before the Gulf Region could celebrate their improbable victory, Manning wasn’t not finished with the team he grew-up rooting for.  Manning mixing the pass and the run led the Colts to New Orleans’ 31-yard line and it looked like overtime was soon in the offing.  But destiny as shown by some earlier successful plays was on the Saints side this night. 

New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracey Porter, who had picked off Vikings QB Brett Favre to end the NFC Championship Game, perfectly timed and read a Manning pass intended from receiver Reggie Wayne.  The former University of Indiana star stepped in front of Manning’s pass and raced 74 yards for a touchdown with 3:12 remaining in the game that basically ended 43 years of frustration for the formerly downtrodden Saints.  Not even a desperation drive by Manning in the game’s closing minutes that ended on a 4th down stop in the endzone could spoil the Saints party as Super Bowl Champions.

It was a storybook ending that no one saw coming when the 2009 NFL Season started.  But the New Orleans Saints –only 10 winning seasons since 1967 – could finally call themselves a Super Bowl champion by hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.  “There’s a lot of grit, a lot of determination in this team,” Payton said. “We fought so hard, and this is what makes us uniquely different.”

In true unbelievable fashion, the Saints, who lost their final three regular-season games, are the first team to take a three-game losing streak into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. Enjoy your championship “Who Dat” nation, your classy organization deserves it as your team was rewarded for 43 years of fighting to establish themselves from a one-time expansion team. 

Definitely congratulations are in order to the entire Saints’ organization including  their players, coaches, front office, and staff.  Special kudos must also go to the architects of this team, head coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson.  Your team did the NFL proud by winning with persistence, grit, determination and a little magic.

“You don’t take it for granted, these moments,” Payton said. “You want to slow it down and for our players, everyone else, our coaches, you just want to put it on rewind a little bit. It’s special, obviously.” 

Lloyd’s Leftovers

  • I thought the pre-game performances by Queen Latifah (sang America the Beautiful) and Carrie Underwood (national anthem) were solid.  The only disappoint may have been that Underwood had trouble with the last note.
  • Everyone always wants to know the commercials that I liked and didn’t like. I just found it amazing that in our tough economy, about 28 advertisers paid over $3 million per 30-second spot. My number one has to be the “Doritos: Put it Back” ad (I like that a kid is willing to protect his Mom and his snacks) followed closely by the Snickers “Betty White” spot. Some stinkers I thought were the Super Bowl shuffle commercial reprise with the ancient 1985 Chicago Bears and the unneeded Tim Tebow and his Mom political spot.
  • The 14 minutes of 1960’s icons “The Who” at halftime was more than enough and can they please get some next year that is not ready for social security – my vote is for the Foo Fighters. If anything, I would have rather watched more of Bill Cowher’s  informative interview with jailed former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress.

Now that Super Bowl XLIV is over, I can take a quick break.  Like most people, my NFL season ends with the Super Bowl.  But the NFL Combine (later in February into March) and the NFL Draft (in April, with the St. Louis Rams currently on the clock) will be he before we know it.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

Super Bowl XLIV Preview: Colts-Saints

Head Coach Sean Payton leads the underdog New Orleans Saints against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV

The 2009 NFL season themed, “Own the Moment”, will climax  with Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida as the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints take center stage in the biggest game in sports. The catchy Don King-esque box office selling theme for Super Bowl XLIV should be “History Book vs. Storybook”. 

The Colts have been one of the NFL’s cornerstone teams since their Batimore heyday with NFL legend quarterback Johnny Unitas in the late 1950’s.  In fact Unitas, who led the Colts to victory in the 1958 NFL Championship Game – some call it the Greatest Game Ever – definitely has passed his  winnning ways along to current Colts’ certain Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, who already has led his team to a Super Bowl win back in 2006.  While the Colts have usually been a winning franchise — second Super Bowl in four years and their fourth trip in franchise history — the Saints have always been the NFL’s version of the heartbreak kids – only a 4-6 postseason record in an over 40-year franchise history.  Many years since their inception in 1967 have ended in disappointment for the folks in the Bayou – only ten winning seasons in franchise history. 

There was the brown paper bag wearing years back in the early 1980’s and Peyton’s father, Archie, also took a beating as the Saints starting quarterback during their struggling years (1971-1982).  But the Saints have perservered and now the city known for Mardi Gras is ready to put the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina behind it by the Saints bringing home a Super Bowl title in their team’s first trip to the Big Dance. “There’s no fan base that deserves a championship more than New Orleans and the ‘Who Dat’ nation,” said Brees.  “Just the bond that we have with them is special.  They give us strength.  They give us motivation.  We want to do it for them.” However former Saint Archie Manning will still root on his son’s Colts.  The former Ole Miss legend and Saints first overall pick in 1971 said of the upcoming Super Bowl match-up, “I’m pulling for the Colts 100 percent, it’s not even close”

“Super Bowl Sunday” is America’s unofficial holiday filled with fellowship, trash talk, and of course eating.  Everywhere you turn, people are talking about the Colts and Saints locking horns this Sunday.  Even my 80-year old plus grandmother, who usually is not in front of the television on Sunday’s watching NFL gridiron action, will be attending a Super Bowl party.  She and almost 200 hundred million other folks will be watching this Sunday as the upstart Saints led by former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush take on the Colts and the NFL’s best pitchman, Peyton Manning.  It will be interesting to see if Super Bowl XLIV ends the ‘09 season with a bang or a blowout, which seems to have happened way too much in Super Bowl history.  One of the bigger storylines is that Manning will also be facing the team he grew-up rooting for, the Saints.

No matter how the Super Bowl ends, the 2009 NFL Season will be remembered for explosive offenses and will most likely be themed “The Year of the Quarterback”.   This season, 10 quarterbacks each passed for at least 4,000 yards, which is the most in a single season in NFL history – Texans’ Matt Schaub (4,770), Colts’ Peyton Manning (4,500), Cowboys’ Tony Romo (4,483), Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (4,434), Patriots’ Tom Brady (4,398), Saints’ Drew Brees (4,388), Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger (4,328), Chargers’ Philip Rivers (4,254), Vikings’ Brett Favre (4,202) and NY Giants’ Eli Manning (4,021).  The previous record was seven in 2007.  Also twelve quarterbacks passed for at least 25 touchdowns this year, which is the most in a single season in NFL history – Brees (34), Favre (33), P. Manning (33), Rodgers (30), Schaub (29), Brady (28), Rivers (28), Bears’ Jay Culter (27), E. Manning (27), Roethlisberger (26), Romo (26) and Cardinals’ Kurt Warner (26). The previous record was 10 in 2007. 

Not surprisingly two of the quarterbacks who are both great leaders and can really fling-it, Manning and the Saints‘Drew Brees, will meet in Super Bowl XLIV.  Colts head coach Caldwell said of his on the field leader, “Peyton had just an outstanding game. He’s one of those guys that can adjust to different situations. … A real champion.”  Both teams, who seemed to be on a collision course earlier this season — combined 27-0 starts — showed their mettle by turning back extraordinary efforts by the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings in their respective Championship Games to earn tickets to the NFL’s biggest stage.  For a long time this year’s Super Bowl match-up seemed predestined as both of these teams remained undefeated teams through 14 weeks – first time two 13-0 teams in NFL history –  and an 18-0 undefeated showdown seemed very possible.  Of course any talk of the “Perfection” Bowl ended with the Saints losing to the Cowboys in Week 15 and the Colts choosing to “rest” their players in a Week 16 loss to the NY Jets. “Everything that’s happened previously, you can throw out the window,” said Caldwell.  The outstanding rookie head coach added, “Those records don’t matter.  All that matters is what happens from here on, and we know that we’re facing a solid team.” 

Though the match-up will be sans the undefeated part, many people’s intrigue around the Colts-Saints big game should be maximized by the NFL’s first No. 1 Seed battle since 1993 (Buffalo vs. Dallas in Super Bowl XXVIII).  Of course, the two aforementioned marquee quarterbacks taking the field for America’s Game, doesn’t hurt either.  This season, Manning became the NFL’s only 4-time MVP while Brees threw more regular season touchdowns (34) than anyone else in the league.  Offensive fireworks are sure to fly in Super Bowl XLIV as both teams can put up points while their defenses are not known to be the stoutest — Colts ranked 18th in defense and the Saints finished 25th

All the hype around the Super Bowl will be at a fever pitch once Carrie Underwood belts out the national anthem.  The pressure for some players can be suffocating.  But the key for both teams will be focusing on their precious opportunity to win a Super Bowl and forgetting everything else that has transpired in the past 20 weeks leading up to the big game.  As for on the field, don’t forget about our usual playoff tenants of Strong Quarterback Play (i.e. Taking Care of the Football), Good Attacking Defense, a Balanced Offensive Attack based first in the Run, Sound Special Teams Play, Limiting Penalties/Turnovers, and just plain “Want-to” all factorin in on who wins this Sunday.

Before we move-on to our preview, in a very odd side note, my crystal ball for the 2008 season said the Colts over the Saints in the Super Bowl.  Of course I am a year late and my picks for this year, the Steelers and NYGiants,  are nowhere to be found.  But no matter, who cares who predicted this match-up all the way back during training camp in July as Super Bowl XLIV should provide some fireworks.

To everyone, I want to wish you a  Happy Super Bowl Sunday !!!

Lloyd’s Leftovers for Super Bowl XLIV

Not much Trash Talking at this Super Bowl – With the mutual respect between the Colts and Saints there has not been the obligatory player trash talking. Remember in Super Bowl XL how then Seattle Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens made some comments about Steelers that got the dander up of then Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.  This time both teams were complimentary and guarded during media day interviews. 

NFL Television numbers support that the league is more popular than ever – Expect a huge contingent of NFL fans and fringe viewers to be watching  this Sunday. There is no doubt,  that the 2009 NFL season kept fans glued to their televisions.  Across America, fans  tuned into NFL games in the largest numbers in two decades.  According to Nielsen Media Research, the average 2009 regular-season game was watched by 16.6 million viewers – up 2 million viewers per game from last year and the NFL’s highest viewership average since 1990 (16.7 million).

Caldwell trying to make history – If Caldwell wins, he will become the 3rd rookie head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl win.  He also would become the third African American head coach to lead his team to victory in football’s biggest game – would join Tony Dungy (Super Bowl XLI) and Mike Tomlin (Super Bowl XLIII).

Watch for everyone’s favorite Super Bowl Ads – Every year one of the bigger events of the Super Bowl is watching the ads.  It was feared with the economy going south that not many companies would be buying time.  I heard CBS will be charging  $3 million or more for a 30-second commercial.

Game Notes and Prediction

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (15-3) at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (16-2) (Sunday February 7th, CBS, 6:25 PM ET)      

Broadcast Team: Jim Nance and Phil Simms

The AFC #1 seeded Indianapolis Colts and the NFC #1 seeded New Orleans Saints will square off in Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida.  The road for these two teams was similar (both started the regular season 13-0), but also different.  The Colts won the AFC Championship by dominating the scrappy New York Jets in a 30-17 win.  While the Saints won the NFC Championship in an overtime thriller 31-28 over the Minnesota Vikings when little known kicker Garrett Hartley connected on a 40-yard game-winning field goal. 

The AFC Champion Colts even though they have made it to their second Super Bowl in four years still have something to prove to themselves and their fanbase.  Don’t forget that the Colts still want to prove that they were right in “resting” key players down the stretch of the regular season in order to be prepared for the playoffs.  Colts President Jim Irsay said before resting players at the end of the regular season, “We’d love to get to 16-0. But the biggest focus is going to be on being prepared for that first playoff game.” The AFC’s No. 1 seed chose to not chase the perfect 1972 Dolphins (NFL’s only undefeated Super Bowl winner) in order to chase a Super Bowl victory.

If the Colts are to succeed and shutup their very disgruntled fan base, Manning (regular season stats: 393-571, 4500 yards – 2nd in NFL, 33 TDs (first in AFC), 16 INTs, and a 99.9 QB rating) will need to protect the football and make some plays down the field to his multitude of weapons including Pro Bowl WR Reggie Wayne, TE Dallas Clark, and emerging youngesters Pierre Garcon – the pride of Haiti had 11 catches for 151 yards and 1 TD  in the AFC Championship Game — and Austin Collie.  Even as good as Manning and his offensive passing weapons are, the Colts must find a running game with RB’s Joseph Addai and Donald Brown to keep the Saints from pinning their ears back on every play.  New Orleans will have their hands full as they will be missing pass rusher Charles Grant, who is on I/R, but expect veteran safety Darren Sharper (9 INTs) to spearhead New Orleans’ defensive effort.  

I am sure Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ will have something up his sleeve to rattle Manning (+ 11 in turnover ratio, placing them 3rd in the NFL) and the Colts high flying offense.  But they better be careful as the 4-time MVP is known to dissect a blitz-happy team, just ask the New York Jets (five different targets throughout the AFC Championship).

On defense, the Colts may have to rely on D-lineman Robert Mathis and Raheem Brock to apply pressure as Pro Bowl DE Dwight Freeney (13.5 sacks) is very iffy with a much-reported about ankle injury.  The Saints are very explosive and scored over 500 points this season (510), so they want to make the Colts’ defense chase them.  The Saints also ranked No. 1 in the NFL with an average of 403.8 yards per game.

Brees (17 of 31 for 197 yards and three TDs in NFC Championship Game win) will have many weapons at his disposal (WR Marques Colston, RB Mike Bell, TE Jeremy Shockey, and others), but you know Saints head coach Sean Payton wants the ball in jitterbug running back Reggie Bush’s hands.  The former Heisman winner has really picked it up this postseason and look for Colts playmaking linebacker Gary Bracket and safety Antoine Bethea (4 INTs in 2009) to keep an eye on him at all times.  Look for Payton to slowdown Mathis and Freeney by using his three-headed backfield monster of Bell, Bush, and Pierre Thomas.

LV’s Pick: Now that all of the hype and talk around Super Bowl XLIV is almost finished, our attentions can turn to Sun Life Stadium in South Florida.  The Colts have been installed as a 6-point favorite, but I truly believe that the youthful Saints will make this a game.  In this battle of marquee quarterbacks, I still believe that the team that runs the ball more effectively and causes turnovers will win.  The Saints have really picked it up since losing their last three games of the regular season, but they have also been a little sloppy.  Expect the veteran laden Colts to play smart and opportunistically, especially Manning.  The Colts win their second championship this decade and Manning will add to his already Hall of Fame resume — Colts 27, Saints 20 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)