Finally NFL fans get to watch the match up they were hoping for in the Super Bowl. Well, the match up I was hoping for at any rate. For the first time since 1993 both #1 seeds will battle it out for the Lombardi Trophy. The Colts got a scare early, but they eventually got things rolling and methodically dispatched the Jets. In the immortal words of Dennis Green, "They are who we thought they were!". While the Saints will go to their first Super Bowl in franchise history after using up a few more of their nine lives in getting past the Vikings in what is already being called one of the greatest playoff games of all time. We'll see if they have any left when they meet the Colts in two weeks.
Jets 17, Colts 30
When the Jets kicked a FG to take a 17-6 lead with only 3:40 to play in the first half, it looked like they just might pull off the biggest upset in franchise history since "Broadway" Joe Namath led the Jets to a victory over the Colts in Super Bowl 3. But then Peyton Manning (26/37, 377 yards, 3 TD's) and Austin Collie decided to play a game of catch. First Manning found the 25 year old BYU rookie open on the left sidelines for a gain of 18 yards. Then he threw a perfect pass over the tight coverage of Drew Coleman for a gain of 46 yards. Finally he threw it to a leaping Collie for a 16 yard TD to cut the lead to 17-13 just before the end of the half. Everyone watching the game could feel a tangible shift in momentum. Said Colts linebacker Clint Session, "When you're going in at the half and you're being smothered, that gives you a little more confidence to know that you're not that far away. And we took it and ran with it." The Jets could also feel the momentum slipping. "You think about 17-6, we thought we were in a good position at that point," Jets safety Kerry Rhodes told reporters. "But it wasn't good enough. They got the drive right before half, and after that it was downhill from there." And by downhill he means they stunk in all three fazes of the game.
After holding the Colts to only 6 points in their first 5 posesions of the game, the Jets defense gave up 3 TD's and a FG in the Colts next 5 possessions. Jay Feely missed FG's of 44 and 52 yards, which cost the Jets points and field position. And Mark Sanchez, who looked great in the first half completing 5 of 7 passes for 124 yards and 2 TD's for a QB rating of 153.3, fell apart in the second half completing only 12 of his 23 passes for 133 yards and 1 interception for a QB rating of 51.5. It also didn't help the Jets that they lost their emerging star RB Shonn Greene to a rib injury. And for those who are wondering, Greene was chosen just 9 picks before the 49ers took Coffee. Ouch!
More after the jump.
The win puts the Colts in their 2nd Super Bowl in four years. While the loss means the Jets will have to cancel their parade that was scheduled for "The Avenue of Heros". "Everybody's disappointed that we didn't go to the Super Bowl, especially when we were this close," Jets Tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said with obvious disgust. "Nobody wants to be third or fourth." Really, but you would have been happy with second? Just be grateful you got to play against Curtis Painter in week 16 which allowed you to get this far.
Vikings 28, Saints 31
The stage was set. Brett Favre and the Vikings got the ball with just over 2 minutes to play in a tie game. Favre calmly led his team down the field into long FG range. The Vikings then broke the huddle with 12 players which moved the ball back 5 yards on 3rd down, but that didn't matter because everyone knew Favre would get it back. On the third down play the pocket collapsed and Favre scrambled to his right. Throwing across his body he found his receiver who turned it up field for the game winning TD. The heavens then opened up and Saint Favre was taken up into the sky, away from us mere mortals. Wait a minute. What did you say? That didn't happen? He threw an interception even though he could have run for 10 yards which would have put his team back in position to kick the game winning FG? Say it isn't so! There is no joy in Purpleville. Might Favre has struck out.
Considering Favre has a habit of killing you in the end and that he was playing against the Saints, a team that's not know for their rich playoff tradition, it really did look like this was it for the Saints. But as we've seen so many times this season, the Saints find a way to win when it looks like there's no chance. The Vikings outplayed the Saints in almost every aspect of the game. Favre threw for 310 yards compared to only 197 yards for Drew Brees. The Vikings had 475 yards of offense while the Saints only managed 257 yards. They controlled the time of possession 36:49 to 27:56. They had more yards on the ground, 165 yards to only 68 yards for the Saints. They had the ball for 82 plays compared to only 55 for the Saints. And the Saints were even penalized more, 9 times for 88 yards while the Vikings were only penalized 5 times for 32 yards. So in the end the Saints won for only two reason. They created 5 turnovers while only turning it over 1 time. And the NFL has the worst system for breaking a tie at the end of regulation. The Saints won the coin toss and Favre never had another chance. It was the second time in 3 years Favre threw a costly interception on his last pass in the NFC championship game that led to his team losing in OT.
The Saints also took turns treating Favre like a human pinata. After the game he sat at his locker with red welts all over his left arm. Blood on his upper right shoulder. A puffy left wrist with a raw gash on it as well. A swollen left ankle that, for a moment, he thought was broken. And a tender right thigh and lower back. I'm not much of a Favre fan but I can respect how much of a beating he took and how he battled through it. Of course the obvious question now is if this was the last we'll see of Favre in the NFL. He did say that unlike the past it won't take him months this time to make his decision, but then added, "It's hard to even think about anything other than the loss." He also said, "I'd love to win the Super Bowl, who wouldn't? But, of course, I can't print anything for you guys, but I know I'm going out on top, one way or the other." Yes Favre, you're on top. Now please, please, please, for the love of god, call it quits.