CAROLINA CRISIS: THIS IS BIGGER THAN YOU By Michael...
Super Bowl Stories
WASHINGTON (BASN) — There were four great stories entering the best day in NFL Football — Championship Sunday. There was the loud, boisterous rookie coach with the talented rookie quarterback — Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets.
The Jets literally backed into the playoffs when the Indianapolis Colts, on the order of team president Bill Polian, pulled their starters in Week 16 and let the Jets win, while Peyton Manning and the rest of the starting unit silently fumed on the sidelines as they watched their chance at a perfect 19-0 season slip away.
The Colts, after tossing aside a chance at immortality, not to mention making the 1972 Miami Dolphins put away those champagne bottles once and for all, had to make it to the Super Bowl to justify the decision.
Also led by a rookie head coach, Jim Caldwell, the Colts already have one Super Bowl ring, but need another to help cement their legacy, and to give Manning more hardware in the “Who’s better – Manning vs. Brady” debate.
On the NFC Side, there was Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and the New Orleans Saints, who have never been to a Super Bowl. The Saints are more than a team; they are the soul of a city still ravaged by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
The team once known as the “Aints” was once such a model of mediocrity, their fans used to show up at the stadium with paper bags over their heads. But this season, the Saints have had the kind of success that has made them a source of tremendous pride in a city still rebuilding, still recovering, and looking for hope wherever they can find it.
And the final story on Championship Sunday was old No. 4, 40-year-old Brett Favre, who is having possibly the best season of his career. Favre left the Green Bay Packers for one awkward, ill-fitted season with the New York Jets, but finally has a second home with the Minnesota Vikings; a team perfectly suited for his talents.
Favre delayed his retirement for a second chance at a Super Bowl, with quite possibly the best team he has ever played with. Making it to the big game would vindicate him from all the haters who grew weary of his will-he-or-won’t-he retire dance, and prove to the Packers management that they moved on from him to Aaron Rodgers a little bit too soon.
Then, finally, it was game time, and the two number one seeds prevailed, with the Colts defeating the Jets 30-17, and the Saints topping the Vikings in overtime, 31-28.
Despite early pressure from the blitzing Jets defense, Manning recovered quickly and led his team with his usual machine-like precision, throwing three touchdown passes on 26-of-39 for 377 yards.
Manning became the only player in NFL history with seven post season games where he racked up more than 300 yards passing.
Caldwell becomes the fifth rookie head coach to make it to a Super Bowl.
In the more closely contested NFC game, the Vikings blew their chances at the Super Bowl with a mistake riddled performance, including nine fumbles and two picks, including one in the final minute of regulation by Favre that seemed to seal the Vikings fate even before the overtime period.
The Saints will play in their first-ever Super Bowl. Manning and the Colts will go after another Lombardi Trophy. Favre will go home, and the media will begin the incessant Favre retirement watch the minute a new Super Bowl champ is crowned in two weeks, if not sooner.
The Jets will learn a few lessons, and will come back better than ever next season.
The story lines have already begun – starting with Manning facing his father’s old team in a city that has never seen a Lombardi Trophy. I love the Saint’s story and their historic rise from the days of the “Ain’ts” and Hurricane Katrina.
But I’m going with the Colts to win by a touchdown.