I'll admit it. I can take pleasure in other people's pain. It's not my best quality, but in some cases, I think it's only fair.
I'm not talking about gunshot wound-pain, nunchuck-like ninja pain or even severe emotional pain -- definitely not the deeper things in life. But, in sports, great rivalries are built on redemption. It's a glorious, satisfying quality of victory. And all Colts' fans know that oh, it can be so sweet.
The Colts and Peyton Manning got redemption in a big way Monday night, defeating the Patriots 40-21. From start to finish, Indianapolis looked sharp, jumping to an early lead and taking command by halftime. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Foxborough Stadium all proved mortal. The mystique, the magic, the monkey on Manning's back – it's all gone. The Colts proved they cannot only beat the Patriots, but they can beat the Patriots in a big, big way.
Here are a few of my big, big plays from Monday's game. The Colts put the hurt on, and they did it all facets of the game. Redemption works in wonderful ways, bringing joy to us all. Just for you redemption, my love, I'm including four big plays this week – only because I cherish you so, so much.
Let the bombing begin
The start of the football game appeared to set up for what looked like a prize fight. It was Joe Louis vs. Sonny Liston, Ali vs. Frazier, the Rumble in the Jungle, Tyson vs. Holyfield – well, minus the whole ear thing. Both teams were throwing heavy-handed punches, hitting hard and pushing their opponent against the ropes for more.
The Colts struck first on only the second play of the game on 2nd and 13 from their own 43-yard line. Manning set up in the shotgun after an Edgerrin James three-yard loss. He had Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley, Dallas Clark and Marvin Harrison out wide. Clark was the inside receiver along the right side, along with Harrison along the sideline.
Manning snaps, rocks back, studies the defense. Both Clark and Harrison initially have single coverage. Wayne gets double coverage short, along the left sideline, while Stokley is in the midst of running a deep corner route just inside him.
Clark and Harrison are nearly step for step, drawing single coverage, when Clark draws the attention of safety Eugene Wilson at the New England 40-yard line. Clark runs a post toward the middle of the field, sucking in Wilson to follow. Harrison recognizes the safety is occupied, jukes cornerback Asante Samuel, cuts to the inside and runs a deeper post route toward midfield. – boom. Manning drops a bomb just over the lunging Samuels' head, and the Colts travel 45 yards in two plays.
The play gave the Colts possession on the New England nine-yard line, setting up a Manning to Harrison touchdown pass to give the Colts a 7-0 lead.
It's always nice to start strong.
OK. So literally this isn't one of the biggest plays of the game. In fact, this was actually one of the shortest passes of the game. It's not the high-octane Colts football that was exhibited throughout much of the game, but its importance cannot be underscored.
After the Colts scored quick, New England answered by driving 69 yards in 11 plays. Brady capped the Patriots drive by connecting with wide receiver Deion Branch for a 16-yard touchdown. Like I said it looked like the Colts were in the midst of a battle.
Indianapolis responded with a long, strong drive of their own, eating up the clock on 17 plays. The Colts had many big plays in the drive, including a 12-yard pass on third-and-13 and a fourth-and-one conversion in their own territory. Manning was focused, cool, calm and collected, never in a hurry and always appearing confident.
From the first play of the second quarter, on third-and-two from the Patriots 21-yard line, the Colts continued to march.
Manning set up from the shotgun with an arsenal of weaponry. Stokley was in the slot with Harrison, along the right sideline. Wayne was out wide along the left sideline. Both Clark and Edge were back with Manning, appearing to be ready to block – that wasn't the case. With only two yards to the first down, Manning wasn't looking to go deep, he was looking to drive. Here it is:
Manning sets with Edge and Clark, snaps, sits back and observes. New England only brings three defensive lineman to pressure, while the Colts have five men blocking. The safeties are back, Wayne is double covered, two linebackers occupy the middle, while Stokley and Harrison take their men deep.
Once the corners are beyond the sticks, Clark and Edge make their moves from the backfield. Manning has two options – Edge or Clark, back to Edge, back to Clark. He sets, lobs a pass to Clark, who catches it across the 18-yard line for a first down. Clark is greeted by Samuels, but still manages to hold on for a first down. Samuels celebrates the big hit, jumping out of bounds and bumping chests with Eugene Wilson.
Wait – Samuels and Wilson celebrate?
What, what what?
That's right. After giving up a first down to the Colts, the cornerback's first reaction was to celebrate that he made a big hit. Wilson joined him by greeting him along the sideline. After getting burned by Harrison earlier and continuously fooled by the Colts' defense, at least they can still celebrate a tackle.
At least they can still bring something to the table.
I've got some words for you Asante. I'm no veteran of the league, but you've got a lot to learn. Clark's the one who got the first down, getting up un-phased and back to the line of scrimmage. You just looked like a fool.
Oh by the way, the Colts scored on the ensuing drive, making the score 14-7 with 11:50 remaining in the first half. The drive ate up 8:57 of clock. Wow, that is something to be proud of.
Manning to Wayne
Wayne continues to establish himself as a premier receiver in the league Monday, accumulating 124 yards on nine receptions. He is currently 14th in the league in receiving yards with 561 yards averaging 12.2 yards per catch. Along with Clark, he has been one of the difference makers on offense this season. James, Manning and Harrison are staples, but the emergence of those two players as legitimate receiving threats has opened up the Colts' offense to endless opportunities.
Quite possibly, Wayne's flashiest catch of the season came on Monday. In the waning moments of the first half, the Colts were up 14-7, looking to blow the game wide open before halftime.
Manning was in a shotgun formation on the Patriots nine-yards line, looking to strike. Clark was lined up near Stokley in the slot, who was along the right sideline with Harrison out wide. Wayne was the lone wideout along the left sideline, while Dominic Rhodes was back to protect Manning in the pocket.
Blue 42, blue 42, huh, huh, hike.
Manning sits, with Rhodes protecting. Clark comes off the line of scrimmage, Harrison and Stokley are both running routes deep, all occupying the left side of the field. The defense shifts – something Manning recognizes before the snap. He looks only to Wayne, who is drawing single coverage along the left sideline, with safety Randall Gay sitting back. When Wayne cuts to the inside of cornerback Omare Lowe Manning launches a ball to the corner of the inside. Wayne weaves back to the outside, while Gay is late in picking up the help -- 21-7 Colts.
Because the Colts had numerous threats on the opposite side of the field, the Patriots defensive attention was shifted. Manning recognized and converted, throwing a perfect pass into the hands of a spinning Reggie Wayne for six points.
It was so pretty I almost cried.
Belichick did. Like something out of Shakespeare, he was sobbing like Juliet for Romeo back.
Don't do it Bill, don't do it.
Salt in the wound
Here it is, bonus points. I knew the game was over by halftime, but after watching the Patriots humiliate the Colts year after year, I had to watch the whole game. It was against my better judgment. I had to be up early the next morning, but after swallowing so many bitter pills, I had to give myself a little treat.
Thanks Peyton. You gave me something I will forever remember – something that I've always wanted to do for you, but well, I just don't have that kind of power. You humiliated Bill Belichick.
Some called it tasteless, some called it ruthless, maybe some even think it's poor sportsmanship. I, on the other hand, thought it was hilarious.
With just six minutes remaining in the game, and the Colts up 34-21, Manning was still throwing haymakers. He connected with Marvin Harrison on a 30-yard bomb in the corner of the end-zone, making the score 40-21.
That was what I like, but not what I love.
What I love is what the Patriots hate – the Colts going for two. Instead of setting up for an extra point, Manning wants more. It seems ludicrous, harsh, unsportsmanlike, just down right wrong to New England fans.
To me? That is funnier than happy gas.
Belichick, the Patriots, the whole frickin' group of states considered New England can't believe it. Out of pure frustration, anger, disorder and confusion, Belichick throws out the red flag.
Standing on the sideline the scowl of Satan was pasted on Belichick's face, while I was standing in front of my television in a state of angelic happiness.
At this point I realized -- the Colts did it. They made the Patriots finally feel what it's like. They made them feel the pain of an 0-8 record at Foxboro. They made them feel the bitterness that Colts fans have suffered, watching their team repeatedly knocked out of the playoffs. They made New England feel utterly helpless.
I don't know if Manning did it out of spite, or his pure competitive nature overtook him. Regardless, one thing is for sure…
Redemption is oh so sweet.
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