Today was New York Football TV watching day. It is rare that I actually watch both the New Jersey Giants and Jets on the same day, but both games were important to the decent to slim playoff chances each team had.
Also, my Dallas Cowboys team did not play until the NBC Sunday night game at 8:20 p.m.
The Giants blew their season because they can't stop the run. The Jets, with help in three early 1:00 PM games, had destiny in their own hands. They only had to beat the undefeated 14-0 Indianapolis Colts and win next week at home versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
And with 5:06 left in the third quarter, losing 15-10, the Jets won the game.
That is because the Colts continue with their ridiculous premise of resting their starters late in the season so they don't risk injury. Never mind that all their stars, including Peyton Manning, have been unscathed the entire season.
In fact, Manning has started EVERY GAME in his 12 year career. He has NEVER suffered a major injury. The best part of Manning's game is his preparation and intelligence. He continually knows where all the defenders are on every play, and on passing plays seems to know where the pressure is coming from. From there, he moves well in the pocket to avoid direct hits. He has been sacked only 10 times this season and 215 times in his career.
I have not witnessed every game the Colts have played, but I have never seen Manning take a huge hit where you think he might be hurt and miss a game.
Back in 1972 (and in prior NFL seasons), the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly divisional rotation, excluding the wild card teams who would always play on the road. Therefore, in their undefeated season of 1972, the AFC Championship game was already predetermined and the Dolphins, despite their perfect record, did not host the AFC title game. That game was played in Pittsburgh.
That means while the Dolphins held the overall best record, they were not playing late in the season for playoff positioning. At the end of the regular season, they did what Herman Edwards stated so eloquently—"You play to win the game!"
And with no playoff positioning to attain, the 1972 Dolphins played the final six regular season games for an opportunity at a perfect season. (I said the last six games because the next best record in the AFC East was the New York Jets at 7-7).
In the last few weeks starting QB Earl Morrall played most of the games, as did running backs Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Mercury Morris plus star wide receiver Paul Warfield. The veteran Morrall was the starter the last nine weeks after Bob Griese broke his ankle in Week 5.
Morrall was only removed from the final few games after the game was well in hand. Reserve QB Jim Del Gaizo came in for mop up duty in Week 12 and Griese, back from his injury, came in late in Week 14.
The Dolphins wanted to make history and they achieved their goal, a perfect 17-0 record and the franchise's first Super Bowl victory. The 1972 Dolphins players could have used the baby, sorry I mean safety, time off like the 2009 Colts received, even more than the Colts needed. The Colts have home field advantage throughout the playoffs and get a first round bye. The 1972 Dolphins did not have a bye and played the first playoff game the following week.
In the 2007 and 2005 seasons with a first round playoff bye wrapped up, the Colts also rested their players (especially Manning) the final week, essentially giving him TWO consecutive weeks off. They proceeded to lose their first round games. In 2005 the Colts began the season 13-0 before losing to San Diego. They mailed in the next game as Manning only played a half, and won the final game without Manning playing. The best and most important player in the league therefore had almost three weeks off from competitive football.
Last season, Manning sat for most of their final game and lost against the San Diego Chargers in the first round of the playoffs.
I like Peyton Manning. He is a superstar player who always tries to perfect his craft. He watches an ungodly amount of film to learn all he can about his opponent, and based upon his overall 117-59 (now 60) record, he learns very well.
He stays out of the public eye off the field and appears to be the all around type guy you would want your son to emulate.
But I really am now rooting for the Indianapolis Colts to lose their first playoff game three weeks from now. You absolutely know now after today's loss that Manning and his starters will sit most of the game next week, too. I want the Colts to lose to teach them about the shot at history then gave up on.
One of the best parts of sports is the history. While the Dolphins are the only undefeated NFL team since the Super Bowl era began, there have been other teams which have knocked on the door.
As recently as 2008, the New England Patriots played all their starters the last several games of the season and came one miracle play from an undefeated 19-0 season. Their final regular season game against the Giants was a classic game with both teams, knowing what was at stake, going all out.
The 1984 San Francisco 49ers team went 15-1 in the regular season and clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs by week 13. Starting QB Joe Montana started every game at the end and was never pulled from a game until the game was out of reach. In Week 16 he started and played the entire game in a 19-16 victory over the Los Angels Rams. They went on to go 18-1 and won the Super Bowl.
A year later, the 1985 Chicago Bears had home field wrapped up by Week 14, and their starters Jim McMahon and Walter Payton both played every game down the stretch, even a 37-17 Week 16 dismantling of the Detroit Lions. They ended up similar to the 49ers, at 18-1 and Super Bowl Champions.
But unlike their predecessors, the Colts mailed it in today, relinquishing their chance at history to save a few plays from one of their stars getting hurt. With almost 19 minutes left in the game and the lead, Manning would likely have thrown the ball maybe 12-15 more times. That is 12-15 drop backs and possible chances at injury. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!
As I mentioned earlier, Manning has been sacked 215 times in his career and has never missed a game. And make no mistake about it, even though other starters like Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark were pulled early, this was about Manning.
Decades after they played, the great football teams are looked upon on how many championships they won. The 1960s Packers won a few NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls. The 1970s Cowboys finally got the monkey off their back and won two Super Bowl titles themselves.
Those Cowboys beat the Dolphins once, who then won their back-to-back Super Bowls. Both those teams lost AFC Championship games and Super Bowls to the great 1970s Steelers teams, which won four Super Bowls and are considered one of the greatest NFL dynasties.
Then the 1980s San Francisco 49ers won their run of Super Bowls, the 1990s Cowboys won their three and this decades New England Patriots won their three.
While the Colts have amassed an amazing amount of regular season wins during the Manning era, they are only 7-8 in playoff games. They have an amazing six one-and-dones where they lost their first playoff game of a post season.
The Colts have constantly sat their starters, but particularly Manning the last game of the season many times and only once, in 2004, have the Colts won their first game of the playoffs. But that was with no bye in the first round, and it was against the same team (the Denver Broncos) they lost to that final week.
Manning has only reached the AFC Championship game TWICE in his storied career, losing to the Patriots in 2003 before winning the Super Bowl in 2006.
It is no coincidence that in both those seasons, Manning was forced to play that final week of the regular season, then the next week in the playoffs.
But this first year new coach Jim Caldwell (probably under the direction of President Bill Polian) went against what history has dictated to this franchise, that when Peyton plays late in the season, they win in the playoffs.
Now that Peyton was sat to avoid a non-existent injury and the Colts cheated their fans and the NFL at a shot at history, I hope that the Colts lose again, three weeks from now in the first round of the playoffs.