Snap Judgments (cont.)
Well, I think that about settles it. The Colts have made the Super Bowl for the fourth time in franchise history and that means they didn't suffer from their decision to rest some starters late in the regular season. Indy lost its perfect season to the Jets in Week 16, but in every game it tried to win, it did, going 16-0 in that situation.
Even if Indy doesn't wind up winning its second Super Bowl ring in four seasons, the second-guessing of the Colts' strategy is a dead issue. In what would have been a cruel twist of fate, Indy didn't lose in the playoffs to the Jets, the team it could have eliminated in Week 16 if it had played all its starters and won.
Until New Orleans hosts a Super Bowl that includes the Saints, Sunday's NFC title game will stand as the biggest game in franchise history in this football-mad town. In the 20 years I've been covering the NFL, I've never seen a city more jacked to the gills and ready to erupt over a football game, or more in love with the local team. And that goes for places like Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Philly and Denver, where football and true fanaticism long ago blended seamlessly.
Maybe all that stuff about Mark Sanchez not being a rookie any more since the start of the Jets' second season wasn't just typical coach-speak. Sanchez certainly looked every bit the calm, cool, collected veteran quarterback in a game that, by all rights, should have been too big for him at this point in his career.
Sanchez finished 17 of 30 for 257 yards, with two touchdowns and one late-game interception. But he really made some tricky throws against the Colts, and his poise in such a high-stakes setting was impressive. His showing in the Jets' three playoff games casts his rookie season in an entirely different light, compared to how his up-and-down regular season seemed to end.
When Jay Feely missed that 52-yard field goal attempt early in the third quarter, his second failure of the game (he also blew a 44-yard attempt in the first quarter), all I could think of was: This year's postseason from hell for NFL kickers just got a little bit more hellacious.
Colts rookie cornerback Jacob Lacey has played a lot and played well this season, but when he gave up that 80-yard bomb to Braylon Edwards early in the second quarter, it sure looked like the foot injury that sidelined fellow Colts rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers would prove very costly.
Speaking of Edwards, when you get an 80-yard scoring catch out of him -- a guy with perhaps the shakiest hands in the league -- you pretty much have to win that game. Don't you?
Not that it really matters now, but that Manning sneak on third-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter really should be tossed out of the Colts playbook for good. It had absolutely no chance to succeed, and even with Manning's forward momentum, he never even got a sniff of the line of scrimmage.
We got that nice shot of Eli Manning up in the suite level celebrating his brother's game-clinching touchdown pass to Dallas Clark. And I bet every Jets fan who saw it was ticked that Eli dared to root against a New York team.
For what it's worth, the biggest buzz I witnessed Sunday in New Orleans was when the "Pants on the Ground'' guy showed up in the lobby of the JW Marriott, the Vikings team hotel Saturday night, and the media hotel for the NFC title game.
And if you're wondering, no, I didn't have a clue as to whom Gen. Larry Platt was when I walked past the throng surrounding him Sunday morning. But I did piece things together once I heard the phrase "Pants on the Ground'' repeated about 37 times in a span of 45 seconds by the fans who were busy posing with him and taking his picture, as if he were MC Hammer in his prime.
The Vikings brought Platt to the game as a good luck charm of sorts, and he actually performed his big hit in a team meeting Sunday morning. It was Brett Favre, of course, who last week did a locker room version of the song following Minnesota's win over Dallas.
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