The Colts made a mistake.

The smartest man in football may have pulled the bonehead move of the season in the NFL.

I admire the Colts President Bill Polian.  As much as one can be in the game of football, he is a genius.  He built a winning organization at Buffalo, and he was the man at the helm when the Carolina Panthers made it to the NFC Championship in only their second year in the league.  He knows football.  He knows talent.  He knows the NFL, and Sunday he spit on its history.  His Indianapolis Colts had the opportunity to pursue the ultimate achievement in the NFL, a perfect season.  Instead he devised a strategy that pulled his key players from the lineup by the fourth quarter, effectively giving the game to the New York Jets and ending a historical run at perfection. 

Ostensibly, it was done to protect the starters from injury as they head into the playoffs.  1.) I don’t buy it.  I think Polian believes that pursuing a perfect season was too much pressure to carry into the playoffs.  I think he believes his players will play loose and have more focus going into the games without the added stress of remaining perfect. 

If  we’ve learned anything this season, we’ve learned the Colts thrive on pressure.  In fact, they don’t seem to play with focus until the game is on the line and it’s do or die on each remaining possession.  I think Polian took away that sense of urgency that seems to give the Colts the edge. 

2.) The Colts have one more game in the regular season, and they get a bye week in the playoffs.  If Polian is concerned about injury to his key players, that means they won’t see any significant playing time in the last regular season game.  Manning and the gang didn’t look too sharp last week when they were in the game.  We’re looking at three weeks of a preseason type atmosphere for those key players.  Can you say “rusty?”  I don’t like where this headed.

Look, Bill Polian knows more about football than I could ever know if I lived three lifetimes studying the game.  That being said, I think he made a mistake for his team.  I think he disrespected the game, and I think he robbed the Indianapolis fans.  Bill as Ricky used to say to Lucy, “You got some splaining to do!”

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Genius, thy name is Peyton Manning.

The Genius!

At the risk of jinxing the guy, I have to say that I’ve been watching football for a couple of decades now, and I have never  before seen anyone master the position of quarterback like Peyton Manning.  I’ve always known he was good, elite even, but this is the first year I’ve thought he may actually be the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.  I know.  I know.  There are quarterbacks with more yards and more championships and greater athleticism.  I get it.  I’ve seen a lot of them play to.  Joe Montana was a gutsy player that won championships.  Terry Bradshaw was a gator fed Louisiana boy that could sling the ball a country mile.  John Elway (my favorite) had an arm and the uncanny ability to scramble his way into big plays.  Marino was the best pure passer that ever lived, and yes, Tom Brady is up there to.  The guy wins.  You can’t take that away from him.

But Manning isn’t just winning.  He isn’t just piling up the yards.  He isn’t just collecting touchdowns like stamps.  He’s dictating the tempo and pace of the game all by himself.  To all intents and purposes, he is the offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts.  How good is Manning?  He made Belichick go for one of the most ill-advised 4th downs I have ever seen.  Why?  Because he was so afraid of giving the ball back to Manning, he made the decision he had nothing to lose by trying to get the first down.  Teams aren’t just making defensive calls to try and stop Manning.  They’re making offensive calls to try and keep the ball out his hands. 

This past Sunday Houston had a 17 point lead on the Colts, and I promise there wasn’t a person watching that game who thought that was a big enough lead to beat Manning, not even the Texans.  Everyone knew that he would make up the deficit.  The question was how many receivers he would use to get there, and how many touchdowns he would actually beat them by. 

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