The "pundits" wondered. We all wondered.
Could Peyton Manning win "the big game"?
Could Tom Brady bring his team back when his team required more than just a field goal?
Well, we got the answers Sunday night.
Yes, Manning could win the big game.
No, Brady, the king of playoff quarterbacks, couldn't bring his team back when it required more than just a field goal.
Manning and the Colts beat more than just their nemesis the Patriots on this historic night in Indianapolis. They trumped the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
And, as many an asocial redneck football fan will tell you, it takes some doing to defy the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
Oh, by the way, Manning cast aside one other demon: He and his teammates stuck a pitchfork through the heart of Brady, arguably the greatest big-time quarterback in the history of football.
For those of you just tuning in, the Colts edged the Patriots 38-34 in the AFC title game, in a game that could have been a rout. New England stormed to a 21-3 second-quarter lead.
They were aleady measuring the Super Bowl rings on the New England sideline at that point in the game.
Instead, Manning the Colt unleashed an offensive barrage the likes of which – and we don't want to sound like we're exaggerating here – have rarely been seen in the history of postseason football, especially against such an accomplished postseason and defensive opponent.
The Colts added an unbelievable 32 second-half points.
During their Super Bowl run (i.e., since 2001) the Patriots had surrendered 38 points or more just three times. There were the 38 points allowed to Kansas City back in 2002 (New England won, 41-38). There was a 41-17 loss to San Diego last year. And, let's not forget: The Colts hung 40 on the Patriots last year, in a 19-point victory at Foxboro.
And here were the Colts again, in the game universally proclaimed as the real Super Bowl, and they hung 38 on the No. 2 defense in football – the No. 1 unit in New England franchise history – after surrendering just 237 points this year.
- The Patriots embarrassed the Colts through the first 20 minutes of play, leading 21-3.
- The rest of the way, it was all Colts, all the time.
- The Colts not only stormed back to win. They pulled off the greatest comeback in conference-title-game history.
- They did it against a coach whose defenses have humiliated the greatest players in the history of the game.
- They did against a team that ALWAYS won when leading at the half.
And, just as impressively, they did it against a quarterback in Brady who always led the big, last-second scoring drive.
Except this time he didn't. Brady tossed a game-ending INT – the kind the opposing QB, including players like Manning, always seemed to throw against Brady's Patriots.
As one friend of the Cold, Hard Football Facts said, "The defense just wasn't there for Brady today."
Well, they said the same thing about Manning's defenses year after year.
It was the biggest game ... to this point. But now Super Bowl XLI sits there two weeks way.
Manning's legacy hangs in the balance in this, the new biggest game in his career.