Before we get started with this week’s analysis, I would like to explain the idea of the reverse jinx. A jinx, as far as the sports fan is concerned, is when you do or say something with such pomp that you end up negatively affecting your team to the point of failure. I picked the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs to beat the Colts. As a Colts fan, this pained me, but I had my opinions (which were wrong), but when the Colts came out on fire, I knew I could not mess with a good thing and pick them in the next round. They clearly played better when I picked against them, so I had to pick the Jets. In case you are new to the blog, I am a Colts fan, and that should complete the picture.
It worked to perfection. Whether or not you believe in superstition, you never mess with a good thing and whether or not I had any impact (which I honestly probably did not, but who cares) the Colts return to Miami to face the New Orleans Saints. We will obviously get to the big game in detail much later, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We had some extraordinary football yesterday and we would be remiss to just skip over it.
Jets 17, Colts 30
Just looking at the score, you would never think that there was a moment in which the Jets were not only in control, but had the Colts offense completely under wraps and Mark Sanchez was putting up the numbers Peyton Manning usually puts up. It was frankly scary for Colts fans. The offense was stalling in the Red Zone when it made it (see Rule #2: No missed opportunities) and they were not satisfactorily protecting the MVP. The Jets jumped out to a 17-6 lead via a Braylon Edwards 80 yard TD, and a fantastic play call by Brian Schottenheimer. The Brad Smith Option Pass is a great play. Why hadn’t they thought of this earlier? Great play, especially when it is the first time all day the Jets had given the option look. Great play. However, after Sanchez hit Keller, before getting annihilated, for the second TD, The Jets were done scoring. Though few would have predicted it at that moment, the Colts were about to go on a 24-0 run.
When you look back at a game, sometimes one moment in particular sticks out where the tides turned so dramatically that even to the untrained eye it is more obvious than trying to find Rex Ryan at a modeling agency. Peyton Manning, the greatest QB in the history of football, took the ball, solved the best defense in football, and swung the momentum so violently that it got whiplash. You know the movie Gone in 60 Seconds? Manning needed only 58, and 4 plays to go 80 yards against the vaunted Jets D. It wasn’t just him either, the pass protection was suddenly holding up, Pierre Garcon was no longer the only guy open, and the crowd was back in the game. It could not have been clearer who had momentum going into the locker room, and when interviewed going into the locker room, Rex Ryan had nothing to say
about the lead, but only about how his secondary needed to step it up. It was the Colts game for the taking, and take it they did. The Jets got the ball and did a pretty good job, but the Colts defense was clearly stiffening, and forced a 60 yard FG attempt. As the kick sailed, momentum, to use a political analogy, went from John McCain (fairly moderate) to Brit Hume (so far right it is rumored the left side of his body is bionic) or the liberal equivalent if you prefer. 57 yards later, it was 20-17 Colts and not nearly that close after Shonn Greene was sidelined. The Colts had control, and had completely shut down the Jets running game. If you were to tell the Jets before the game that Mark Sanchez would have upwards of 250 yards passing, not get sacked, and throw 2 TDs, how many Jets fans would have bet on them? Every last intelligent one because there was no way the Colts were shutting down the run, right? Well, the Colts stepped up and held the Jets to just 86 yards rushing. That’s right, 86. The terrestrially-challenged (ground challenged) Colts rushed for 101. When you pride yourself on the run, you cannot afford to get shut down like that, no matter how well your rookie QB is playing. You cannot expect him to match Peyton Manning punch for punch, and eventually it caught up to them. Remember our rules?
- Stay away from the sexy pick. Everyone’s sleeper who was red hot going in is not your ticket to the Super Bowl.
- No missed opportunities.
- Win the Special Teams battle.
Well here is a new one. You cannot just do a few things well and win, you need to play well in all phases and play a complete game. You cannot just do one thing well, though you do have to outdo the other team, but the team that plays the more complete game will win. The Colts played better offensively, perhaps even defensively, and did not commit the blunders on Special Teams the Jets did with their 2 missed field goals. Add on top of that another new rule and the Jets just did not have what it took on this day. Rule #5 is Luck. This includes getting calls, and the Colts ha
ve been getting calls all year. This game was no exception, and add to that Reggie Wayne’s fumble that he fell on immediately and the Colts definitely won that battle.
A few final notes, because I know I am rambling about my team. I have doubted Piette Garcon. I do not have alot ofconfidence, when the ball is thrown to him, that he will come down with it. I appreciate his value as a speedster and playmaker, but I do not have confidence in his WR skills yet. On this day, however, he came up huge. He made just about every catch, and came down with every important catch. He was the man today, and I take my hat off to him for it. Now please keep it going.
Basically, the better team won. Sorry, it’s true. The Jets are not a team you want to face, and had quite a run, but no one can convince me that the better team did not win. That is the way it should be. The AFC team that was the best all year will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and that is how it should be.
In fairness to Jets fans, they got pretty banged up during that game, but one thing resting your starters in the last few weeks does is help keep guys fresh and healthy. The Jets did not have that luxury and were prey to the nature of the game.
(Wait for it…)
Vikings 28, Saints 31
I think the biggest question that comes to mind about this game is “Did the Vikings outplay the Saints?” They outgained them 476-257, held a 10 minute possession advantage, New Orleans committed 9 penalties for 88 yards, Minnesota committed 5 for 32, ran 82 plays to the Saints’ 55, and the list goes on. Statistically speaking, the Vikings deserve to be in the Super Bowl, but this is one of the big flaws with statistics. There are trump cards in sports, and in football, that trump card is giving up the ball. We could make that a rule, but it is so cliché to say that you have to hold onto the
football that I am going to ignore it and call it a given. When you give up the ball 5 times, I repeat Five, 5, V, 2+3, anyway you want to put it, you have not outplayed the other team. If you are -2 in turnover differential, you are asking to lose but when you are -4, you are hoping to be close. If I was a member of that defense, I would secretly mock every offenive player to turn the ball over for being too big a wimp to hold onto the ball. That defense played lights-out for just about the entire game, and how were they rewarded? With a Pro Bowl appearance instead of a Super Bowl appearance. I do not care how many yards you rack up, if you turn it over than much, including twice inside the Saints’ 10, you cannot win. It reminds me of the good old days when the Colts defense would completely hamstring the Colts offense and lost the game by not being able to force a 4th down. I feel bad for Vikings fans, the defense, and the coaching staff, but there is one man I do not feel bad for.
That man is the bane of my sports-viewing existence, Brett Favre. I know he has the numbers to back him up, but he has now played a significant role in losing three big playoff games in the last decade (2003, 2007, 2009) with interceptions so unclutch that it is hard to comprehend. I understand he was doing a lot to get his team to these
positions, but how on earth can you trust this man with the game on the line? He had avoided making the bad decision all year, and what does he do on his last snap of the season? He throws a pick with his team just about in field goal range. The 12 men in the huddle thing was bad too, but that is later. I honestly could nto care less if he retires or not. I know he will not lead a team to the promised land, nor will he stop being a complete pariah in the foreseeable future. I was still a youngster when he was beloved, but frankly since I have watched him, he has been just as likely to fail as succeed. Maybe it is personal for me at this point, but I would literally trade the Vikings our 3rd and 4th round draft picks to force a Favre retirement so I do not have to hear about him ever again. However, I am not naïve enough to expect a Favre retirement, he is like a zombie, except all he wants is attention rather than brains. Ok, moving on to non-vendettas…
Let’s get back to the question of if the Vikings outplayed the Saints. As I hinted at but did not explicitly spell out earlier, no the Vikings did not because they turned the ball over 5 times and committed a penalty (12 men in the huddle) at literally the worst possible time. That penalty coaxed gunslinger Brett back into the open and he did not disappoint the city of new Orleans by throwing a classic “just having fun out there” interception. Every team makes a few physical mistakes, but mental mistakes always come back to haunt you. The Vikings were on the verge of overcoming their 5 turnovers, but the Football Gods intervened and made sure that the better team on the day won. Well done Football Gods, justice is served. Not turning the ball over is paramount to success in the NFL and it is fitting that just as turnovers are an important part of deciding who is a better team, the team that did not really turn it over all day emerged as the NFC representative.
As far as news is concerned, the Saints in the Super Bowl is outstanding. It has been a troubled franchise, to put it lightly, and the city still loves their team. This is not like the Cardinals whose fans had bailed on them until their playoff run last year. The Saints fans have always loved their team, even when they were horrible (most of their history). They will do their city proud regardless of result, and a Colts-Saints Super Bowl promises to be not only exciting, but hard-hitting and close. Not to mention it features the two best teams all year, just like it should. OTC will have position-by-position breakdowns and deep analysis upcoming but we have a few weeks so sit back and enjoy the success of your team, the high draft picks to come or the Pro Bowl and get ready for Super Bowl XLIV.