Despite Flawless Game, Peyton Manning Still Blamed for Choking Away Colts Season

Tyler ConwayCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2009

I can't take the stupid anymore.

Really, I just can't take it. I find myself emotionally distraught by the stupid I have come across all day today.

After a heartbreaking overtime loss last night, I spent a couple hours reflecting on the roller-coaster season we had just concluded.

Peyton's knee troubles, the opening of a brand new stadium, a 3-4 start, an unbelievable 9-game winning streak to get into the playoffs, and an over-time loss to send us home.

After a long night of sleep I woke up and decided to see what the brilliant internet community had to say about the game. I shouldn't have done it, but I couldn't help it.

The disdain I now feel towards Colts fans, all football fans, and the media is far worse than the disgusting feeling I had after the game last night.

It seems that the general opinion of the NFL community is that the Colts choked last night. Peyton choked again, Dungy's a pushover, and the Colts are the Atlanta Braves of the NFL.

Are you kidding me?

Did anyone actually watch the game?

I truly cannot understand how any of these conclusions can be made.

Peyton Manning was magnificent, throwing pinpoint passes to Anthony Gonzalez, making the right check-downs and the right reads all game long, and beautifully catching the defense napping for a 72-yard strike to Reggie Wayne.

What did he do wrong? What should he have done differently?

Apparently if the Colts win, it's because of Peyton Manning. If the Colts have a nice winning streak and come back to win games after trailing for most of them, then of course, Peyton Manning should be the MVP of the entire league.

If they lose, then of course, it must be Peyton Manning's fault. He should be stripped of his MVP award and it should be given to a player who really deserves it, like Kurt Warner.

Are there not 53 men on this team? Did we not win a Super Bowl because our defense rose to the occasion and played the best they've ever played?

How does the success and failure lie with just Peyton Manning himself?

Then there's Tony Dungy. A true class act and one of the most respected men in the game, he was criticized his entire career for failing to get his team to the Super Bowl.

Then, in 2006, a calm and collected Dungy rallied his team together and brought the Lombardi trophy to Indianapolis for the first time.

Suddenly, just two years later, he's a pushover again. He's too nice and his teams all underachieve in the playoffs. He should just retire already and admit that he just can't get the job done when necessary.

In my opinion, all of this is the fault of the media. And the fault of stupid, stupid people who come home from work, sit on their couch, and listen to all the rhetoric that ESPN and NFL Network has to offer. And they eat up every bit of it.

Every educated football fan knew that this was a very even matchup between two teams who know each other all to well. They are also by far the two best drafting teams in the league. It's not even close. Not the Patriots. Not the Eagles.

It's Bill Polian's Colts and AJ Smith's Chargers.

8-8 meant nothing. Nine straight wins meant nothing. Both of these teams were 0-0 and it was going to be an incredibly hard-fought matchup that would come down to the end.

In fact, the game was so close it couldn't be decided in just four quarters of play.

Yet the media decided to pick the Colts. You've always got to love that. There's some great pressure. All they talked about was how great Peyton Manning had played and how hot the Colts were so obviously they should win this game.

And people sitting at home, as usual, agreed completely.

But the Colts didn't win the game. So what happened?

Well it must have been Peyton Manning choked again, what else could it be?

Please, everyone, if you get the chance, watch this game again. I'm sure it will be re-aired on NFL Network sometime soon.

If you're a Colts fan, let the anger and frustration of going home early wear off and watch every snap of this entire game.

There will be no way that you could come down on Peyton Manning or Tony Dungy for losing this game. In fact, there is nobody to blame the game on.

Because nobody messed up.

This wasn't a game of mistakes and missed opportunities.

This was a battle of two unbelievable teams and somebody had to lose. I think these are the two best teams in the AFC and they should have met in the AFC Championship.

But unfortunately, because of a faulty playoff system, these two teams had to meet in the first round of the playoffs. And because of this, one of these teams had to go home and face the false illusion that they got knocked out too early and had a failed season.

What I really can't believe is that Manning didn't even turn the ball over.

At least in our losses up in New England earlier in this decade Peyton actually did play poorly. While I still feel that he faced a lot of unfair criticism, at least someone arguing with me could point to his turnovers, especially the ones that were thrown in the end zone.

But not this time. He was flawless. Yes, he threw incompletions and yes, he had a couple tipped balls that almost wen into the hands of a Chargers player, but he was amazing.

He threw for over 300 yards and made the right calls at the right times and executed them brilliantly.

There is no way to put the blame on his shoulders.

I don't care if he just won the MVP award. I don't care if uneducated commentators and fans think this team wins and loses with him.

If anything it's the other way around. It's our defense that continuously got us out of holes and won games. The only touchdown we scored in our win over Cleveland was an fumble recovery for a touchdown.

So now then, if Manning was fine and Dungy was fine, why did the Colts lose?

1) Mike Scifres is the most amazing punter I've ever seen in my life. The Colts continuously had to drive 98 yards while the Chargers had to go 40 or 45. That's an unbelievable difference. Scifres deserves a HUGE raise after that game. When two teams are evenly matched, field position and special teams can be the difference.

2) The Colts couldn't run the ball. This was the biggest thing. Everyone asked if we could win in the playoffs without a running game. I said yes. The answer was no.

We had a huge third and one which we couldn't convert and the third and two at the end of the game was the most important play of the game. If we converted that, the game was over. They were out of timeouts and we could have let the clock run out. Unfortunately we couldn't trust the running game and it really came back to hurt us.

3) Darren Sproles is amazing. Every team has its own list of players who kill them every time they play. The players who have given the Colts the most trouble over the years are Corey Dillon, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner, and Darren Sproles.

NOT Ladanian Tomlinson. I have no idea why they continuously updated LT's injury status. I would have loved for him to play because we usually do a good job of shutting him down.

Certain players just match up well against certain teams. I'm not going to sit here and say that Jones-Drew and Sproles are the two best backs in the league but I can't think of two players I'd rather the Colts avoid than them two.

4) A coin toss. If that coin does one more half-rotation in the air I could be writing a whole different article about the keys to winning against the Steelers next week.

5) Controversial calls. I'm definitely not going to cry about the calls like some other Colts fans. We had our chances to win and we didn't take advantage of them. That's our fault.

That aside, you still have to let players play at the end of the game. Neither of those penalties should have been called. Controversial calls should never determine the outcome of a football game.

That's it. That's why we lost. If you're still reading this angry, depressing, ranting article I give you credit. But I'm done. I'm done with Colts fans, I'm done with commentators, and I'm done with football fans who pretend like what they're saying makes sense.

Please, everyone, before you let stupid spill out of your mouth, think. Just think. Actually take the extra couple of seconds to form a rational thought.

We just witnessed an amazing game played by two incredible teams with great coaches and players that needed sudden-death overtime to be decided.

Nobody messed up. Nobody is at fault. Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning. Tony Dungy is still the rock that gets this team ready to play every week.

I understand that we all deal with a tough loss like this differently. I have a friend who's new Facebook profile picture is Tim Jennings with bold red letters over it that says "Release Jennings" on it. It's one of the stupidest things I've ever seen before.

In fact I made the decision that I would never discuss Colts football with him again. To somehow think that one controversial call on an up-and-coming player means that all of the blame should be put on him and he should be cut is one of the dumber things I've heard in a while.

But then I realized that this is just his way of mourning. He needs to be able to put the blame on someone in order to justify the loss. And that is okay.

Our season has only be over for 24 hours so I understand that emotions are still high and it will take some time to adjust to thinking with an off-season mindset.

But please, stop the stupid. Stop pretending like somehow this loss belongs on the shoulders of Peyton Manning or Tony Dungy. Or Tim Jennings for that matter.

Bob Kravitz, who wrote about everything I'm arguing against in his article for the IndyStar this morning, should be ashamed of himself.

Congratulations to the San Diego Chargers for winning a hard fought playoff game. I hope we get the chance to exact some revenge on you next year.

But now there's only one thing Colts fans need to think about.

How do we improve for next year?

Bring on the off-season.


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