Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Top billing

Is there a better rivalry in sports than Patriots-Colts? Maybe Red Sox-Yankees, maybe Lakers-Celtics. But pretty much every year, you can count on a big-time battle between two teams vying for home field in the playoffs, and that game is likely to be decided in the final two minutes. And many years, you can look forward to an even more exciting postseason match-up. (Despite a formulaic regular season scheduling process, the two teams have played every year since 2003, and also met in the postseason in '04, '05 and '07.)

Four Super Bowl trophies between them in this decade. Tom Brady. Peyton Manning. Two high-octane offenses. The white collar, dome-homed Colts. The blue-collar Pats in the Foxborough snow. Belichick and Dungy (and now Caldwell).

And it was Belichick who added the newest layer of drama to this rivalry already thick with exciting chapter after exciting chapter. Going for it on 4th-and-2 from their own 28 with just over two minutes to go and a six-point lead?


Methinks Bill's hoodie was blocking his view of the scoreboard. Yes, there's a good chance that Manning marches the Colts down the field even if they start at their own 20 or 30. But you have to make him score the touchdown, not let him. Manning doesn't even need to put his cleats on to go 28 yards. Twenty-eight yards for him is taking candy from a baby. Seventy-five yards is at least candy from a teenager, or a remarkably strong and determined baby.

And for the defense to stop Manning from going down the field certainly wasn't out of the question given that he threw two interceptions in the second half and the Pats defense forced five first half punts by the Colts.

But despite all that, I can't help but appreciate the balls and bravado behind that call. Who else does that? He's gone for it on fourth down 16 times against the Colts, and that was only the fourth time they've failed to convert. It was the wrong call, but it was as gutsy as it gets. And there's something cool about that. Unless, of course, you're on the Patriots side of this great rivalry.

The beauty of the bye week

What's going on with bye weeks this year? Apparently the best thing you can do in the NFL is take Sunday off.

Week 6: Cowboys get a bye while the Eagles, Giants and Redskins lose.

Week 9: Vikings are off while the Bears, Packers and Lions stumble.

Week 10: The Giants, who have lost four in a row, finally get a break from losing thanks to their bye week. And the teams they're chasing--the Cowboys and Eagles--allow them right back into the thick of the NFC East race with road losses.

Do the Bears get another bye?

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