A few words about the Colts.
What sticks out to me more about the late game Saturday was the Colts losing, not the Jets winning, because the reverberations will be felt for a while. Maybe a long while. The Colts, of course, had a lot of injuries this year, but they entered the playoffs on a four-game winning streak, and Peyton Manning had bonded with some new receivers like Jacob Tamme (who had been targeted 93 times in the 10 weeks since Dallas Clark went down for the season). Besides, lots of teams enter the playoffs beat up. Look at Green Bay. Anyway, the three things Indy takes into the offseason:
Peyton Manning, who played great Sunday, will be 35 in March. He now has played 13 years in the NFL and won one championship. The championship window, obviously, is starting to close for Manning. When his career's done, we won't be able to call him the eighth-best player of all time, which NFL Films did this fall, at least compared to the others on the list, unless he wins more titles. I'm not among those who think you have to win four or five championships to be considered the best ever at the most important position in the game, but I can't put Manning, today, over Otto Graham, Joe Montana and Tom Brady. I know that's not why he's feeling devastated today, and I know he is. But the impact on his legacy if he doesn't win another championship or two will be a big hit.
The Colts may have to worry about Reggie Wayne, who sounds very much like he doesn't want anything to do with Manning for a while. It would have been pretty frosty between them if the Colts advanced this week. One attempted pass to Wayne, the team's best receiver? The guy who led the AFC in targets? The guy who had 111 catches this season? Ridiculous. I know Darrelle Revis is superb when healthy, but Manning just has to look for Wayne more than once in four quarters. "I shouldn't have even suited up,'' Wayne told Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. "It's bull, man. I was irrelevant.'' Manning will say he's often done that when playing great corners over the years, like against Ty Law and Champ Bailey, but I don't think that's going to soothe Wayne.
Jim Caldwell needs to go to clock management school. In a 28-28 game at Jacksonville in Week 4, the Jags had one timeout left and started a drive at their 23-yard line inside the final minute. They ran Maurice Jones-Drew on first down and didn't call time. They seemed content to play for overtime. But the Colts called time with 36 seconds left. Jacksonville then went aggressively downfield and got in position for a 59-yard Josh Scobee field goal to win it at the gun.
Now it's Saturday night, 29 seconds left, and the Jets have one timeout left, and they're at the Colt 32 on second-and-eight. Caldwell called time. It appeared on replays like Peyton Manning was waving his arms as if to say: "Are you kidding me?'' Caldwell gave an explanation afterward that raised more questions than it answered. Quite frankly, it was bizarre.
"I was going to make sure they couldn't take the clock down,'' he said. "Make them snap the ball. They were in field goal range. So we wanted to make them snap the ball as many times as they could." What possible merit does making sure they couldn't take the clock down --which, of course, they could anyway, seeing that it was second down and this was Indy's last timeout and the game had 29 seconds left? Very strange.
The Ravens are one of the best road teams I've ever seen.
Six playoff games in the past three years, all on the road. Four wins, three by double digits. Baltimore's success is more than hit-or-miss. "I think a lot of it is just being on a good team that doesn't take any plays off,'' quarterback Joe Flacco told me after the 30-7 rout of the Chiefs in Kansas City. "We like coming into hostile territory knowing if we play the way we know we can we can take the crowd out of the game. There's something about that, as a player, that is really motivating.''
There was more than that Sunday. "Ed Reed,'' Suggs said.
Reed's brother Brian, trying to escape from police, jumped into the Mississippi River in Louisiana Friday, was unaccounted for and Ed Reed played the game Sunday not knowing for sure if his brother was alive or dead, though authorities called off the search for him Saturday after finding Brian's jacket and shoes but no traces of him.
"[Ed] has the heart of a warrior, and we had to have his back today," Suggs said. "For three hours, he didn't have to worry about that other stuff. All we had to worry about was football. We wanted to make sure we played the way we know we can play, as a tribute to Ed.''
Not that Suggs was crowing after the Ravens throttled Kansas City with a classic Baltimore defensive game. The Chiefs turned it over five times and gained just 161 yards.
"Was this your best defensive day as a team?'' I asked Suggs.
"No, not even close,'' he said. "We can be more dominant. We can't just wait for the second half to shut teams down. That doesn't work in the playoffs. We've got to play better this week.''
I reminded Suggs of his great T-shirt, the one he wore often at training camp in 2009, the one with "You bet your sweet a-- I hate the Steelers'' on the back.
"Oh yeah,'' he said. "Awesome rivalry. Can't wait.''
He won't have long. Baltimore-Pittsburgh's the first game of the weekend, Saturday at 4:30 at Heinz Field.