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Peytons failures endearing
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Forsyth County News
“Certainly disappointing.

“Very disappointing.


That’s how Peyton Manning described the pass that won the Super Bowl for the Saints. It’s also how Manning described his Colts’ 31-17 loss in Super Bowl XLIV.

In fact, Manning’s postgame press conference sounded like a sixth-grade vocabulary exercise. You remember: use the word 10 times, and it’s yours. Throughout his melancholy recap, Manning invoked “disappointing” at least 10 times.

Now it’s his.

And maybe that gets to the heart of his popularity. He’s fallible. We like our heroes fallible, don’t we?

Of course, there’s plenty to like about Manning. He comes across as a pretty regular guy. He never seems to be putting himself above anyone else. And he’s downright hilarious in just about every commercial in which he appears.

And he’s certainly one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game. His preparations are legendary. No one outworks Manning on the practice field or in the film room. Who else would go back to his very first playoff game — 19-16 loss to the Titans on January 16, 2000 — in hopes of getting an edge on Gregg Williams?

Williams was the Titans defensive coordinator that day, the same role he filled for the Saints on Sunday. You’ve got to admire someone who goes back 10 years looking for consistent tendencies.

Early on, it seemed to have helped. If anyone on the field had an edge, it was Manning. He was flawless, marching the Colts down the field, completing passes to receivers who weren’t even open.

On the Colts first possession, Manning took them 53 yards in 11 plays, keeping the ball away from the Saints vaunted offense for almost six minutes. But the drive ended with a field goal. Disappointing.

The next drive was perfect. Pure Manning: 96 yards, 11 plays, 4:36. Every pass was short, right on the money. Zip, zip, zip. Until Manning noticed a new cornerback available for exploitation. He immediately went up top to Pierre Garcon for a 19-yard touchdown.

Effortless. Easy. Piece of cake. That’s what made the rest of the game so disappointing for the Colts. Slowly, the Saints offense gained traction.
A dropped pass, poor field position before the half, and the Saints’ brilliant onside kick to begin the second half conspired to keep Manning at bay until the third quarter.

Then he produced another vintage drive: 76 yards, 10 plays, 5:26, putting the Colts back ahead, 17-13. But the Colts couldn’t stop the Saints, Matt Stover missed a field goal, and the Colts couldn’t stop the Saints.

That left Manning, trailing 24-17, leading the Colts down the field for the inevitable tying score during the game’s final five minutes. On third-and-five at the Saints 31-yard-line, there wasn’t an ounce of doubt that the Colts would convert and keep the drive alive. Hadn’t Manning led the Colts to an NFL record seven wins with fourth quarter comebacks?

The pass was an easy curl to Reggie Wayne. Suddenly, there went Saints cornerback Terry Porter racing the other way, the ball and game tucked safely in his arm.

“He made a great play,” said Manning at his disappointing press conference. “He made a great play. That’s all I can say about it. Porter made a heck of a play.”

“It never comes down to a single play,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell observed at his own disappointing postgame press conference. “There are a lot of different things that happened in that game that could have put us in a little different position.”

That’s true enough. If Garcon doesn’t drop the third down pass on the Colts third possession, he’s probably still running, and the Colts have a 17-3 lead, and lots of momentum.

If Hank Baskett fields the Saints’ onside kick with his hands instead of his helmet, the Colts have a great chance to open the second half going up by two scores. If Matt Stover doesn’t miss his field goal…

Sorry. The play we’re always going to remember as the killer is Porter’s interception. Manning’s interception.

And that endears him to us. Good as he is, he isn’t perfect. He’s still capable of making a terrible mistake at the worst possible time. He could be one of us. He’s everyman. He’s human.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the loss is his fault. Without Manning, the Colts don’t even reach the Super Bowl. And despite that egregious error, Manning still led the Colts right back down the field. You still thought that he’d somehow pull it out, right up until that final pass fell incomplete.

Manning fails, but he fails gallantly. He’s prepared, he plays well, but he comes up short. Almost always. No state championships in high school.
No national championship at Tennessee. Now he’s led the Colts into the playoffs 10 times in 12 years. He’s won one Super Bowl.

Disappointing. But we love him for it.