Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Colts and Saints hop off the plane at MIA with a dream and their cardigans: the Super Bowl picture

New Orleans Saints' quarterback, Drew Brees, contemplates what it will take to win against Manning and the Colts


The Indianapolis Colts will take on the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl. The teams ended their regular seasons in the AFC and NFC respectively with the two best records. Let's break this down by conference.

-AFC-
Once regular season ended and the playoff picture was decided, no one who knows anything about football should have been surprised to see the Colts win the AFC Championship. They were hands down the best AFC team all season and everyone knew it. They went 14-2, and the only two games they lost were the last two of the season, for which Coach Jim Caldwell decided not to play virtually any of his first string players. This move was strategically a good call in that the Colts had already locked up the #1 seed and hoped to avoid injuries and rest up for the playoffs. However, it was decried by fans and teams throughout the NFL as a cop out.

The fans deserve a hard fought game played by the best players. The fans deserve a team who fights for an undefeated season. The opposing team deserves a victory of which it can be proud, not one even they know they only earned because the other team failed to really play.

They beat the overrated 9-7 Wild Card New York Jets in the AFC Championship in an anticlimactic 13 point victory everyone who knows anything about football saw coming. Woot.

-NFC-
Who dat? The Saints. No, really, who IS that? Truth is, no one can blame you for not knowing who that is. Like me, you may not have heard much about the New Orleans Saints before this year because, prior to this season, they had only won two playoff games in the entire history of their franchise.

This year, despite having the best record in the NFC at 13-3, they still played like the underdogs in the playoffs and remain in this position entering the Super Bowl. They managed to pull off a win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship despite being straight up out played.

The Saints didn't win because they were the better team. Far from. The Saints won because the Vikings were their own worst enemy. Minnesota posted a monumental six fumbles and two interceptions before all was said and done. Against the opportunistic Saints defense, those are mistakes they couldn't afford to make. Yet even with all those blunders, the Vikings still would have won as they prepared to kick the game winning field goal in the tied game with only seconds left on the clock. On third down, Minnesota needed only a few yards to put them in range for a field goal. These are plays you don't risk. These are plays you run, not throw. Play it safe. Instead, quarterback Brett Favre committed one of the cardinal sins of football. The rule? You never throw late down the middle. Perhaps Favre, with two Super Bowl appearances and one ring under his belt earned playing for the Green Bay Packers, thought this rule didn't apply to him, or that he was too good of a QB for it to happen. Oh and let's shalln't forget that he also made that play by throwing the ball across his body. Boy was he wrong. The ball was intercepted by Tracy Porter. The game went into OT. The Saints won.

Frankly, if you play the way the Vikings did, sloppily giving away that many turnovers and making what I'll call the "stupidest play decision ever" on your last play of the game, you don't deserve to win.

After the Vikings lost to the Steelers, I posted in this blog on Oct. 26 that, "[T]he Vikings and Favre aren't the unstoppable force so many thought they were, and they are going to need to examine their game more critically and play more carefully in the future if they are to continue racking up the wins and points they couldn't pull off against the Steelers." The Vikings did not take my advice about seriously focusing on playing more carefully and protecting the ball, and the result is a blown NFC Championship.

However, another team's loss doesn't make you a winner. Saints' quarterback Drew Brees' 197 yards pale in comparison to Favre's 310. Their 69 total rushing yards posted by running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush together is laughable when stacked against Vikings' RB, Adrian Peterson's , 122. The Saints' top two receivers had a combined yardage of 77, while Vikings' wide receiver Bernard Berrian and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe each individually topped that with 102 yards and 83 yards respectively. The Saints didn't 'win' the NFC Championship. They scored more points in it.

The best team did not win the NFC Championship. The team who made the least stupid mistakes and who was well prepared to take advantage of these follies, did. The Vikings did not deserve a victory. The Saints did, and they got it.

-The Super Bowl-
The Colts and Saints will now tackle each other Feb. 7 in the big mother of them all; the Super Bowl. In all likelihood, the Colts will win. They are the stronger team with the more seasoned quarterback and coach. Campbell is still in his first year coaching for the Saints. The Colts don't rely on forced fumbles and picks and unconventional play calls as do the Saints. They just do what works.

Most, however, will be rooting for the Saints. America loves an underdog, and the Saints are definitely that. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which obliterated most of New Orleans just a few years ago, is also still fresh in people's memories. As a result, people know what this means to the city and to the fans. The Saints will have a difficult fight against the Colts, who are undoubtedly the fiercest team they have faced all season.

The Saints are the team with heart and something to prove; to those who doubt them, to their fans, to themselves, and to their recovering city.

The Colts are the team backed by the confidence and fortitude of knowing that they are the best, that they are expected to win, and that they are lead by Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks of all time. The man also makes hilarious commercials... but I digress.

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