Note to Self: There’s always a fat lady with a song
It has taken me nearly 3 full days to wrap my brain around what happened on Sunday Night Football. The nausea of having to watch my Colts play the Patriots set in about 2-3 hours before the game even kicked off. Sometimes I can decipher my nausea. It usually means we’re going to play like crap, but Sunday I really just wasn’t sure. I thought we had great potential to blow this game out of the water, but I also felt like we had great potential to all out suck. I never imagined that it would end up being basically a mixture of both. I go into these games against the Patriots with a degree of cautious optimism/pessimistic hope, if you will.
I fought hard through that whole first half. I felt it looked a lot like the first half of the 2006-07 AFC Championship game, when the Colts mounted one of the largest 2nd half postseason comebacks in NFL history, so I stuck with it into halftime. I kept that little glimmer of hope…until the third quarter. That third quarter did everything it possibly could to break me, but still I watched. I watched a train wreck that I couldn’t do anything about. I watched the body snatchers take over the Colts team that while it experienced some struggles in its previous 8 wins of the season still managed to stay within themselves and pull it out in the end. Perhaps I should have thought of them more instead of letting what I had right before my eyes control me. There was just too much negative evidence. The writing was practically DRY on the wall.
So fast forward to 4 minutes and 12 seconds left IN THE ENTIRE GAME. The Patriots have just kicked a field goal to make the score 34-21. The Colts have 4 minutes and change to score 13 points for a tie, 14 for a win. I turned the TV off…well one of them anyway. I turned the big screen off and went upstairs to get ready for bed and the next day. I went over in my head the things I would be dying to say to the Patriots fan at work if he even tried to rub it in. And as I climbed into bed, I remembered what had kept me up on the night of the 2006-07 AFC Championship game. I nearly went to bed early on that game, but I said I’d stick it out until the laundry I was doing was finished. Oddly enough, the laundry finished about the time the Colts tied up that game. And then I said to myself that these guys aren’t giving up on themselves, so I’m not giving up on them. So back to this past Sunday night where for a minute and 49 seconds of game time, I gave up on them. I said good luck and more power to you coming back from a 13 point deficit in 4 minutes and change.
But when I climbed into bed I remembered. The game is 60 minutes long. Every down of offense, those 11 guys are going out there and plugging away trying to get enough plays right on the money to move the ball down the field when every stat and scoreboard around them is telling them to quit. Every down of defense, those 11 guys are going out there and plugging away trying to get one more stop when every stat and scoreboard around them is telling them to quit. So, I turned on the TV to see if it was over and if it wasn’t I would watch the rest just to stick it out with them. Turns out I really only missed one drive that resulted in a touchdown closing the 13 point gap to 6 with a score of 34-28. At this point, there were 2 minutes and 23 seconds left IN THE ENTIRE GAME. The Patriots are deep in their own territory. The Colts defense needs the biggest stop of the season to happen RIGHT NOW. And boy did it ever.
I climbed out of bed and got right up in front of the TV because while I could barely believe it, part of me somehow wasn’t shocked at all. I was mad at myself for missing that last touchdown. I was mad at myself for allowing the give up voices to win. But for those two minutes and change I was going to be there…full on. And then I saw something happen that I never thought I ever would until he was past his prime and easing into senility. Bill Belichick just completely lost it. Now I know this has been hotly debated over the last few days. And I know that if the 4th down play had been converted, we’d probably be talking about what a genius Bill is. But here’s one thing I know for sure about the Colts defense…when a team…any team…doesn’t have to be the Patriots…goes for it on 4th down, they ABSOLUTELY hate it. They view it as an insult…a sign of complete and total disrespect, and that defense hates being disrespected. Now maybe you’ll say, so what…who cares about a defense being disrespected…that doesn’t mean they make that stop every time. Of course it doesn’t, but here’s the thing…they only had to get it right once.
So here’s Peyton Manning handed the ball on the Pats 29 yard line. Here’s a QB who has passed for more yards in one decade than any other QB in the entire history of the NFL. Up to Sunday, he’d orchestrated 39 4th quarter comebacks. Could he get an even 40? I’m not sure I was any more calm the entire night than I was in those final two minutes. Guess what the Colts do in practice every Thursday afternoon…just guess…bet you’ll never guess. 2 minute drills OVER AND OVER AND OVER with different scenarios each time…most of them with way more than 29 yards needed to score. They practice them with 3 time outs, 2 time outs, 1 time out, and zero. They practice it from the 99 yard line and forward. They practice it with being down a field goal and they practice it with being down a touchdown or a touchdown with two point conversion. They are conditioned to know exactly what they need to do to win the game in the final two minutes. It is their ace in the hole.
So I watched as Peyton threw his first pass over the middle to Reggie Wayne for 15 yards. I watched as the Patriots stopped Joseph Addai on the 1 yard line after a 13 yard gain. I sighed as Joe ran head first into the pile on the next play for no gain. And then I very nearly lost my calm when Peyton let the clock run down to roughly 22 seconds before snapping the ball for the next play. But when he did snap that ball and Reg was in the end zone, I watched as, once again, Peyton threw Reg a pass that only Reg could catch. He put it exactly where Reg’s hands would reach out and grab it. A 1 yard pass to tie the game with 13 seconds left. I’m not sure I have ever…EVER…cheered for a PAT more than I did that last one.
I wondered to myself why after all these years I EVER give up on Peyton. I’ve seen some pretty incredible things over the years that nothing should surprise me anymore. That fat lady may have been warming up her pipes right before Tom Brady snapped the ball on 4th and 2, but the defense told her to cool her jets just a little bit longer. So I’m posting this blog entry as a reminder to myself from now on to never forget that there’s always a fat lady with a song and as long as Peyton Manning is on the team, she’s not singing at least until that clock hits 00:00.