The national pigskin "pundits" have spoken and are near unanimous in their acclaim: After two playoff games, Peyton Manning and the 2003 Colts are no less an offensive juggernaut than Jim Kelly and the 1990 Bills, Kurt Warner and the 2001 Rams, or George Patton and the 1944 4th Armored Division.
This is the perception. But does it hold true under the glaring scrutiny of that most knowledgeable of pigskin pundits, the Cold, Hard Football Facts? Let's see:
- The 1990 Bills had the No. 1 scoring offense in the regular season (428 points) and scored 95 points in two playoff games
- The 2001 Rams had the No. 1 scoring offense in the regular season (503 points) and scored 74 points in two playoff games
- The 2003 Colts had the No. 2 scoring offense in the regular season (447 points) and scored 79 points in two playoff games
The 1944 4th Armored Division had the No. 1 offense on the western front and swept 600 miles across Europe in a mere two-week period
The Colts playoff numbers, while not unprecedented, are certainly impressive. However, they lose much of their luster when we consider the quality of the defenses each team faced in the playoffs.
- The 1990 Bills scored 44 on the league's No. 4 scoring defense (Dolphins, 242 points allowed); and 51 on the No. 6 defense (Raiders, 268)
- The 2001 Rams scored 29 on the league's No. 2 defense (Eagles, 208); and 45 on the No. 6 defense (Packers, 266)
- The 2003 Colts scored 41 on the league's No. 9 defense (Denver, 301) and 38 on the No. 19 defense (Chiefs, 332)
- The 1944 4th Armored Division crushed a German Army that had been 3-0 against France from 1870 to 1940
Of course, you probably know what happened to the 1990 Bills and 2001 Rams in their third playoff games. Both faced defenses masterminded by Bill Belichick. Both lost.
Belichick's gameplan used to stymie the 1990 Bills in Super Bowl XXV resides today at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Belichick's gameplan used to stop the 2001 Rams, "the Greatest Show on Turf," in Super Bowl XXXVI is regarded by many as the best defensive plan ever devised.
Belichick did not have a gameplan to stop the 1944 4th Armored Division. Instead, it faced a defense constructed by Field Marshals von Runsdedt and Rommel. The 4th Armored Division shattered the German defenses. Von Rundstedt was judged at Nürnberg. Rommel was implicated in a plot to overthrow Hitler and forced to take his own life. We leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts offer their conclusion: The 1990 Bills and 2001 Rams put up gaudy playoff numbers against much better defenses than those faced by the 2003 Colts. Both foundered upon the fortifications constructed by Bill Belichick.