Before and after Week 7, no game had been talked about more than the previously undefeated Broncos’ trip to Indianapolis to play the Colts. Denver entered the game 6-0. Indy was 4-2. And, oh yeah, that dude currently playing quarterback for the Broncos spent his first 14 NFL seasons as a Colt.
Peyton Manning versus Andrew Luck. Old school versus new school. The master versus the phenom.
On the one hand, Irsay has a point. Indy won more games during the 2000s than any other NFL team in any other decade. More than the 49ers in the 80s, the Cowboys in the 90s and even the rival Patriots in the 2000s.
Yet the Colts have only one title to show for it.
For that reason, I’ve been as harsh a Manning critic as they come. I’ve long maintained that the Colts winning anything less than two or three titles during that run is borderline criminal given how good the players were in the regular season and how many times they held home-field advantage.
That said, such sentiment coming from Manning’s former boss is a game changer — and his current boss was right to call Irsay out on it.
To understand Irsay’s wrongheadedness, you have to understand the landscape in Indianapolis. That place was a football wasteland before Manning’s arrival. The Colts made the playoffs just three times between the move from Baltimore in 1984 and Manning’s rookie campaign in 1998, giving the state of Indiana little reason to deviate from its lifelong love affair with basketball.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, in Indianapolis. The Coltsd won 39-33. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Manning’s Colts were a greater show on turf for a greater amount of time than anything we saw in St. Louis, and Manning came into his own at a time when Bobby Knight was being ushered out of Bloomington, Ill.
So it’s one thing if some random blogger like me bangs a keyboard over Manning’s inability to consistently win playoff games in his home stadium, and whether that merits changing the formula for winning football in Indianapolis. I’m not any better off either way. I’m just calling it like I see it.
But it’s another thing for a man who directly profited from Manning’s dominance (do you think that shiny, new stadium gets built without the attraction of Peyton Manning playing football there 10 or 11 times a year?) to whine that he’s got too many naked fingers — as if Super Bowl rings are somehow his birthright.
Here’s what Irsay takes for granted: the NFL postseason is a notoriously fickle lover.
Even if his current model is better than the previous one, (the jury’s still out on that –even though these new school Colts are far more physical than those “finesse” teams of yesteryear), it doesn’t mean his team will be consistently better at the end of a 60-minute, single-elimination football game.
The 1998 Vikings thought they were a title team. Six years ago, the Patriots went undefeated in the regular season but couldn’t get past a 10-win team for the Lombardi Trophy. The Bills rolled snake eyes in four straight Super Bowls.
So instead of pointing to the four naked fingers on his hand, perhaps Irsay should be thanking Manning for the one with the ring on it.
Taking it off his middle finger would be a great start.
Speaking of flipping birds, we start this week’s NFL recap with Thursday night’s fine feathered matchup:
Seahawks 34 Cardinals 22
My web editor is a Cards fan, so I’m going to say something nice about Arizona. The team has only 10 games left.
Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris carries the ball past a pile of Chicago Bears defenders during the second half of a NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013. The Redskins defeated the Bears 45-41. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Bears 41 Redskins 45
In the 2nd highest scoring game of 2013 (behind only the Denver/Dallas tilt from two weeks ago), Robert Griffin III showed flashes he’s finally back from his devastating knee injury. Considering what the ‘Skins have on defense and special teams (i.e. nothing), he’d better be if there’s to be any more “Victory Mondays” in Washington. Oh, and meet Jordan Reed. I didn’t believe recent talk that he’s every bit as good as Jimmy Graham, but this game made me think there might just be something to that notion after all.
Cowboys 17 Eagles 3
Philly fans…pay close attention to this article. It’s basically what we were saying in Washington about Steve Spurrier 10 years ago.
Bucs 23 Falcons 31
My two favorite plays in this game: the Thomas DeCoud fumble return for a TD and the incredible one-handed snag by Vincent Jackson. I tend to give DeCoud the nod because I’ll forever love him for this comedic gem.
Bengals 27 Lions 24
If you haven’t seen this incredible touchdown play from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson, drop what you’re doing and watch it now. Easily one of the top three plays of the year.
Bills 23 Dolphins 21
Miami better figure out how to protect Ryan Tannehill or the Dolphins are going to be last year’s Arizona Cardinals.
Patriots 27 Jets 30 (OT)
Well, this upset means New York has equaled my predicted win total for the team’s entire 2013 season. While there’s still the small possibility of a nine-game losing streak to end the season, I’m willing to admit I had the Jets pegged all wrong.
Rams 15 Panthers 30
Wouldn’t it be insanely ironic if Sam Bradford’s torn ACL means St. Louis trades Washington back its first-round pick from the RGIII deal to get Kirk Cousins? I’d literally need psychiatric care from having my mind all the way blown. Oh, and Janoris Jenkins? Never talk about a man’s mama, or his (current) wife. Especially if that man is Steve Smith. If you see him on the street … RUN!
Chargers 24 Jaguars 6
Just to put Jackonsville’s struggles in perspective: by week’s end, Philip Rivers will have more kids than the Jags scored points on Sunday. Can we just put the Jags on the clock already?
Ravens 16 Steelers 19
Even without the likes of James Harrison, Hines Ward, Ray Lewis or Ed Reed on the field, the Ravens and Steelers played to another low-scoring, defensive brawl decided on the last play. Nothing to see here, folks.
Texans 16 Chiefs 17
Give Houston props for just keeping this one competitive against undefeated KC. The Texans came into Arrowhead Stadium already mourning the loss of former Oilers coach Bum Phillips (who also is defensive coordinator Wade’s dad), and then llost Brian Cushing to a bad leg injury. Unless Case Keenum is better than we think, this is shaping up to be a loooong season in Houston.
Niners 31 Titans 17
Regretfully, this was the last game Tennessee’s owner Bud Adams would witness. Even though his 409 wins were more than any other NFL owner, it would have been nice to see a man who founded not only the Oilers/Titans, but the AFL go out on a higher note. Rest well, Mr. Adams.
Browns 13 Packers 31
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: These hideous Green Bay throwbacks should be packed and promptly tossed into Peats Lake.
Broncos 33 Colts 39
Indy has beaten Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco by an average of 10.7 points. It’s a legit Super Bowl contender. Not in 3-5 years. Now. Vikings 7 Giants 23
Minnesota was clearly throwing this game. Not running Adrian Peterson is bad enough. But putting the game in the hands of a QB who’s been on your roster less than a month is mind-numbingly stupid. Morgan Freeman was more prepared to start that game than Josh Freeman,and coach Leslie Frazier is officially on the hot seat because of it.