Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have quite a history against each other. In their first 5 meetings, 2 of which were playoff games, Brady and the Patriots prevailed. In their final 2 meetings, both regular season games, Manning and the Colts were the victors. Those 7 games meant nothing tonight, as the two teams faced off to determine who would be the AFC representative at Super Bowl XLI in Miami.

Peyton Manning and the Colts had something to prove, having bad playoff experience after bad playoff experience. In last years playoff, the previously most accurate kicker in the NFL, Mike Vanderjagt, missed a pretty easy kick in the AFC Championship game last year against the Pittsburgh Steelers as time expired which would have given the Colts the nod onto Super Bowl XL. This year they replaced Vanderjagt with ex-Patriot Adam Vinatieri, who is widely considered the most clutch kicker currently in the NFL, if not in NFL history.

brady-vs-manningI didn’t expect how poorly Indianapolis would come out of the gates, quickly falling to a 21-3 margin. The scoring began when New England offensive lineman Logan Mankins recovered running back Lawrence Maroney’s fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. The Colts responded with a field goal, but the Patriots piled up their early scoring with a 7 yard Corey Dillon touchdown and a Peyton Manning interception returned 39 yards for a touchdown by New England cornerback Asante Samuel. Adam Vinatieri tacked on one more field goal before half-time, leaving Indy down 21-6.

That marked the low point in the game for Indianapolis who came out fired up in the second half. Manning drove his team down the field for 2 consecutive 76 yard drives capped by touchdowns of a 1-yard rush by Manning and a 1-yard touchdown reception by offensive lineman Dan Klecko, who was lined up and declared as an eligible receiver on the play.

The Patriots and the Colts then traded touchdowns, the first a controversial catch in the back of the end zone by New England receiver Jabar Gaffney, the next a recovery by Colt’s center, Jeff Saturday, of the fumble by running back Dominic Rhodes. Saturday’s touchdown was the third touchdown of the game by an offensive lineman and in the words of John Madden from the Keanu Reeves movie, The Replacements, “I love to see a fat guy score.” Pat Summerall: “Why?” Madden: “Because look, first you get to see a fat guy spike and then you get to see a fat guy dance!”

After a few more field goals, the Colts trailed 34-31 and Manning got his opportunity to prove how great of a quarterback he is with a 4th quarter comeback with only 2 minutes and 17 seconds left on the clock. Indianapolis wasted little time and crossed mid-field before the 2 minute warning. A completion to wide receiver Reggie Wayne brought the Colts to the 11-yard line and after three straight runs by Colt’s running back Joseph Addai, the last of which was a 3-yard touchdown run, the Colts had a 38-34 point lead.

Their defense then needed their defense to come up big and stop Tom Brady and the Patriots from a final season saving drive. Marlin Jackson did just that when he intercepted a pass from Brady intended for tight end, Brandon Watson, and clinching the win for Colts and thus giving Peyton Manning the victory in the latest chapter of the Brady vs. Manning saga.
This win makes history for the NFL as it means that not only is the first (and second) African American head coach leading their team to a Super Bowl, but one of these coaches will win, which will make either Indianapolis coach, Tony Dungy, or Chicago Bear’s coach, Lovie Smith, the first African American head coach to lead their team to a Super Bowl victory. I wish the best of luck to both of them, though because of my general disgust in Rex Grossman as a quarterback, I feel it necessary to root for Tony Dungy to achieve this feat.