Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Steve Auger and I’ll be your on-site Bleacher Report correspondent live from Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XLIII between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots.
I’ll be on the field and in the press box bringing you the who, what, why, where, when, and how of the big game.
During his press conference, Commissioner Goodell issued a mandate that Tom Brady--under threat of suspension--must play. Brady has been recovering from season-ending knee surgery as the result of an injury that occurred in the first quarter of New England’s first game of the season.
My league sources told me that the entire New England organization was infuriated with the commissioner’s decision. The Patriots immediately filed a written appeal to the league offices.
Early this morning, New England’s appeal was denied. The memo, issued from Goodell’s office, advised Brady to, “rub some dirt on it." "That’s what Peyton would do.” So it looks like Tom Brady will be taking the field.
New England has also filed an appeal over the proposed scoring changes. Commissioner Goodell, at his press conference last week, ruled that all point values for Indianapolis would be doubled out of fairness because of New England’s record setting offense.
Goodell just announced that he will rule on this appeal after the game is over.
Down here from the field level, the stands are a sea of blue Colt jerseys. I know Commissioner Goodell stressed fairness to both teams at his press conference, hence, changing the game location. So the only conclusion left to draw is that Patriot fans don’t travel well.
As fans marched through the turnstiles, each one was handed a sign with the words “WANTED: For the Crime of Spygate” above the image of Bill Belichick. New England certainly appears to be playing in anything but a neutral site.
Clearly the sting of the Spygate scandal still haunts the Patriots.
When I questioned officials within the Indianapolis front office about accusations of increasing the heat during previous games and pumping additional crowd noise through their speaker system, I received blank stares and a slew of “no comments.”
The crowd has taken their seats and we’re ready for the team introductions.
Here come the New England Patriots as a chorus of boos fills the stadium.
I’m trying to hear what their entrance theme is but the fan noise is making that difficult. Wait. Hold on, I think I’ve got it. I don’t believe it but the music appears to be The Imperial March, also known as Darth Vader’s theme. Certainly an interesting choice.
The Patriots just ran by where I’m standing and there’s something peculiar on all of their heads. Are those what I think they are? Indeed, each player is carrying his helmet while donning a 10-gallon, black cowboy hat.
A very peculiar entrance indeed. I’ll try and get to the bottom of this. In the meantime…
“Born down in a dead man’s town, the first kick I took was when I hit the ground…”
And here come the Colts sprinting onto the field. I can barely hear myself think. Wow, this place is absolute bedlam!
“Born in the USA! Born in the USA! Born in the USA! Born in the USA!”
I don’t believe this. Just like New England, Indy is carrying their helmets but they’re wearing 10-gallow white cowboy hats. What the blazes is going on here?
Both teams have settled on their sidelines and now it’s time for the coin toss.
The Patriots sent Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, and Randy Moss out to midfield.
Indianapolis counters with Peyton Manning…and, wait…is that Eli Manning? He doesn’t even play for Indy! And a third person is with them. Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me…Archie Manning, Peyton and Eli’s father? The Manning quarterback clan is representing Indy for the coin toss!
Folks, I’ll tell you, this is the most abnormal game I’ve ever seen and the actual game hasn’t even started yet.
And now, to announce the special guest coin tosser, brought in specifically by the NFL. This has been a tightly kept secret all week but we’re about to find out who it is.
Is that…..Brett Favre?
It is! Bret Favre is going to toss the coin! And what’s more, Chris Berman and John Madden are escorting Favre to midfield! This is all just very bizarre.
Favre shows both sides of the coin to the players. I’m standing just outside of the huddle and I can tell you that one side of the coin has a picture of Peyton Manning while the other side has a picture of Favre.
“Peyton, since y’all are the visitin’ team and these here’n Yanks have the home cookin, why don’t y’all call it in the air?”
“Aw shucks, Brett. That’s dang nice of ya. Alrighty then, here goes. Me!”
Whoa, the toss got away from Favre and landed in Tedy Bruschi’s upside down helmet. Well, that’s not the first time a lousy throw from Favre was picked off. But I digress.
Bruschi turns over his helmet and the coin lands Manning side up. The Colts elect to receive.
Indy will be going left to right towards the end-zone adorned with the “Manning 18” emblem while they defend the end-zone with the “Peyton” emblem.
Stephen Gostkowski boots it away from the Patriot 15 and we are under way.
Pierre Garcon takes the kick at his own 15 and returns it to the Indy 42. Great starting field position for Manning and the Colts.
14:53 Manning lines up under center, I-formation. Harrison wide right, Wayne in the slot to the left. Patriots are showing blitz so Manning changes the play at the line.
11:27 Manning takes the snap, finds Wayne on a slant. One man to beat. Wayne is in the end-zone! Touchdown, Indy on the first play of the game! Vinatieri adds the kick and the Colts lead 14-0.
11:04 Ellis Hobbs takes the ball at the five and returns Vinatieri’s kick 33 yards so New England will start from their own 38-yard line.
5:57 After utilizing a steady ground attack, the Patriots find themselves facing a third and 13 from the Indy 15 yard line. Brady hits Wes Welker in stride at the six and Welker’s brought down at the four.
A look at the replay clearly indicates that Welker was pantsed by Bob Sanders but no flag. Gostkowski knocks home the chip shot and New England is on the board.
A quick scan of the crowd shows several famous Bostonians have made the trip. So far the camera has found Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, Boston Mayor Tom Menino, and actor Matt Damon.
I caught up with Damon a short time ago and inquired as to if his childhood friend and noted Boston sports fanatic Ben Affleck was in attendance.
Damon informed me that after Affleck’s antics during the Red Sox 2003 playoff run, which included Affleck bringing his then-girlfriend and Bronx native Jennifer Lopez to a Sox-Yankees game in Fenway Park, anointing himself spokesperson for Red Sox Nation, and just acting like an overall lunatic, Affleck has been banned permanently from any and all Boston sporting events.
The Pats and Colts traded punts on the last few series so at the end of the first quarter, Indy leads, 14-3.
6:03 After each team engineered a lengthy drive that resulted in a turnover, Indy has reached their own 48. Manning doesn’t like what he sees on third and one so he burns a timeout.
I’ve just received word that Peter Gammons of ESPN is reporting that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and his agent, Scott Boras, have issued the following statement:
“In the interest of not disrupting a major sporting championship like we’ve done in the past, Alex and I wish to announce that we will not be making any major announcements during the Super Bowl.”
6:03 Manning takes the snap and throws short to Anthony Gonzalez who has enough for the first down and then some. Gonzalez is still on his feet. He runs over Brandon Meriweather before being hauled down at the New England 35.
Wait a minute, though. There’s a flag on the play. Let’s get the call.
“We have a blocking foul, No. 51 on the defense. The defender was not stationary and did not have position before contact with the receiver. That’s his third foul. 15 yards will be tacked on to the end of the run.”
Uh, I don’t know what to make of that. That’s typically a basketball call. Either way, coach Belichick has yanked Jerod Mayo for the rest of the half, presumably.
Indy is in business at the New England 25-yard line.
5:49 Manning takes the snap, draw-play to Dominic Rhodes. Touchdown, Indy! The kick is good and the Colts have jumped out to a 28-3 lead.
0:13 After a 72-yard drive of mostly runs mixed with a few short passes, New England has the ball at the Indy 12. Brady and the Patriots are staring at a third-and-eight.
The Colts are showing blitz. Brady takes the snap. It’s a draw to Sammy Morris who bursts up the middle into the end-zone! Touchdown, Patriots!
And the boos grow louder for Belichick’s team. The kick is up and it sails through the uprights cutting Indy’s lead to 18.
Manning takes a knee and our score at the half is 28-10, Colts.
Well, we’re a few minutes form the start of the third quarter so let’s get you caught up on some house-keeping items.
The halftime show was rather interesting. As opposed to the usual musical performances, John Madden and Chris Berman conducted a live interview with Brett Favre right at midfield. Favre announced that he hasn’t quite made up his mind on whether to retire or not but that he should have a decision in a few more months. How shocking.
Favre revealed that he’s enlisted the aid of Roger Clemens in determining if he should call it a career or not. As we all know, Clemens is the foremost authority on drawing out a retirement announcement and completely over-estimating self-importance in this world so Favre should have all the help he needs.
Also, we have a live feed from our sister station in Dallas. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, in protest over his team not making the Super Bowl, even though, well, they didn’t make the playoffs, is holding the first annual Jerry Bowl. And just for clarification purposes, the Jerry Bowl isn’t actually a game. It is just a day long tribute to him.
The event is live at Texas Stadium and as you can see right now, the dedication of the 75-foot high, solid gold Jerry Jones sculpture is taking place. Jones is currently at the podium reading his own acceptance speech.
Upon conclusion of the Jerry Bowl, Jones will present himself with the Jerry Jones trophy.
And lastly, as usual, the halftime commercials were a roaring success. 10 commercials in all were shown and Peyton Manning was in every one of them.
Here’s a breakdown of all the products Manning hocked, uh, I mean endorsed: Southwest Airlines, Doan’s pills, Rice Krispies (he played the roll of “Crackle”), Papa Gino’s, Subway (with Jared), Chevy, Pepsi, Coca-Cola (hey, he’s Peyton Manning, he can do both), Folgers Coffee, and Preparation-H (along with Eli…such a great family moment).
The third quarter was rather uneventful as both teams traded field goals. After three, Indy leads 34-13.
I caught up with Michael Irvin a few minutes ago. He informed me that the big post game party is being held at a club in down town Indy called Locked and Loaded. It’s being hosted by Marvin Harrison, Ray Lewis, Tank Johnson, and Pacman Jones. Hope the place has metal detectors.
There’s also a rumor circulating that tickets were left at the stadium will call window for Michael Vick and O.J. Simpson. I’m fairly certain the tickets went unclaimed.
The fourth quarter has produced two huge plays that have helped New England climb back into the game.
First, Wes Welker ran a punt back 78 yards to cut the deficit to 34-20, Colts.
Then on Indy’s next possession, Ellis Hobbs picked off a Manning pass in the end zone and ran it back 102 yards for a touchdown. That score pulled the Patriots within a touchdown of the Colts, 34-27.
6:03 The Patriots, still trailing by a touchdown, face a third and seven at the Indy 38. Brady takes the snap. He’s got Moss streaking down the sideline. Throw to the end-zone…and…Moss caught it! Touchdown!
Wait, no. The score is waived off. Moss landed out of bounds.
Wow, the replay clearly shows Moss got both feet down. No question about this.
And there’s the red challenge flag from coach Belichick. This will be the first review of the day.
Oddly enough, the replay officials for today’s game are Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter and Archie Manning. That would seem to be a conflict in Indy’s favor but I’m sure both men will be impartial.
Wow, here’s the ruling after only 10 seconds of deliberation. That was fast.
“The receiver is wearing white cleats and the sideline is white. Therefore, it is too hard to determine whether the player was inbounds even though the sideline is a perfectly straight line.
"The play stands. No touchdown. New England forfeits their remaining timeouts, well, because frankly, we’re sick of Bill Belichick thinking he’s smarter than everyone.”
Fourth down for New England, so they’ll be forced to punt.
0:52 The Patriots, still trailing by a touchdown and out of timeouts, have one last gasp left. They have the ball at the Colts’ 24-yard line. Fourth and six so they have to go for it.
Brady takes the snap and fires towards the end-zone. He’s got Moss wide open on a busted coverage.
Intercepted by Bob Sanders! Sanders is dragged down at the 12-yard line but Indy has the ball and that should do it.
Hold the phone, though. There’s a flag on the play right in the area of roughing the passer. You know, it did look like Dwight Freeney got to Brady well after the ball was released. Let’s listen for an explanation.
“Personal foul on the play. No. 12 of the offense used his knee brace to drag the defender down on top of him. The penalty is declined. The interception stands and Tom Brady has been ejected from the game. There’s no room in this league for cheap shots.”
(Fifteen seconds of silence).
Wow! The Colts run out the clock and that will do it. The Indianapolis Colts win Super Bowl XLIII.
Let’s get a hold of Peyton Manning for his thoughts.
“Aww shucks, you know, we’re just grateful to win. Everything worked against us today from the hostile crowd, to some bizarre calls by the officials that helped out New England, to an unbalanced scoring system that, quite frankly, totally favored them..
"And lastly, I’m really surprised at Tom. What a dirty play. Shame on him. Now excuse me, my agent’s on the phone with some more commercial offers.”
Let’s try to get some more reaction here in this sea of people.
Hey Mickey Mouse, you just watched the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl. Where are you going now?
“I’m going to ask Peyton Manning if I can be in a commercial with him.”
Well that about does it…wait…some late breaking news in my ear piece here.
Sources have confirmed that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has fined Patriots owner Robert Kraft $1.25 million dollars and stripped his team of all of their 2009 draft picks because it has been discovered that Mr. Kraft recorded the Super Bowl on his home DVR.
That will do it from Indianapolis, folks. For the Bleacher Report, I’m Steve Auger. Good night.