Manning’s masterful magic will lead Colts to win
Two words are enough to explain why the Indianapolis Colts will
win their second Super Bowl in four years.
While you’re playing checkers, he’s playing chess – and he’s
always two moves ahead.
He forced Bill Belichick into a risky gamble on fourth-and-2,
then finished off the game-winning drive and left the Patriots
coach answering questions for months. He convinced Jets coach Rex
Ryan to try a 52-yard field goal, then turned around and used the
field position to produce the go-ahead score in the AFC title game.
He spotted the Miami Dolphins a 3-to-1 advantage in time of
possession and still brought back the Colts. It was one of a league
record seven fourth-quarter comebacks.
“It’s really disheartening,” Miami coach Tony Sparano said at
the time. “I’d like to ask you guys how many times you’ve seen
games like that.”
All the time, coach.
With seven days to study film of an opponent, Manning has no
problems finding creases in a defense. With two weeks to break down
the Saints, the best student to ever play the game will take
advantage of every crack.
New Orleans defensive coordinator Greg Williams has been doing
plenty of studying, too. Manning’s been his favorite subject.
“We’ve researched every game all the way back into games I
coached against him in Buffalo, games I coached against him at
Tennessee,” Williams said. “I go back and look at all those
games. You know why I do that? He’s such a pro that I know he is,
Late last week, Williams also promised to send defenders to
deliver a message – “remember-me” shots is what he called
But it’s Manning who will leave the lasting impression.
It’s one thing to give up nearly 500 yards to Brett Favre and
the Vikings in the NFC championship. It’s another to allow
Washington’s Jason Campbell to throw for a career-high 367 yards.
Manning has 56 career 300-yard games and seven 400-yard games.
Even more important, perhaps, Manning rarely makes mistakes.
The Saints feast on turnovers, and he’s notoriously slim
pickings. He almost never gets sacked and rarely turns the ball
over. Against those same Jets, he got sacked twice on the Colts’
first two possessions, and didn’t go down again.
There’s a reason for that: Manning had already watched film of
every one of the Jets’ regular-season games.
Then he went back and studied how Ryan attacked the Colts in a
2006 game when he was defensive coordinator with the Baltimore
Ravens. He didn’t stop there, either, heading into the locker room
at halftime and replayed the first half.
When someone mentioned that to Jets Pro Bowl defensive end Shaun
Ellis, a teammate of Manning’s at Tennessee, he didn’t even pretend
to be surprised.
“Same player, same guy,” Ellis said, shaking his head. “He
was always a film guy.”
That’s not all he is.
Manning is the best in the NFL on third-down conversions. He’s
scored on 23 straight red-zone possessions. Nobody runs a 2-minute
Want to blitz him?
Bring it on.
Against two teams that blitz routinely, the Ravens and Jets,
Manning completed 67.5 percent of his passes and threw five TD
“With Peyton Manning, if you can’t disrupt his rhythm, he’s
going to kill you,” Ryan said after the game. “And, we couldn’t
disrupt him enough.”
The Saints won’t, either.