No, the Colts decision to pull their starters with a little more than five minutes left against the Jets in Week 16 wasn’t the reason they fell, 31-17, to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV last Sunday.
Not even close.
That game happened five weeks ago. If you’re looking for the play that cost the Colts the most, check out the replay of Peyton Manning’s ill-fated attempt to hit Reggie Wayne on a slant route with 3:12 to go in the fourth quarter.
There’s no reading in between the lines or any philosophical mumbo jumbo to point to. Tracy Porter’s interception of Manning and 74-yard touchdown return sealed the deal.
“Porter made a great play in the ball,” Manning said. “He made a good break on it. And he just made a heck of a play.”
The Saints onside kick to start the third quarter was a great call by Sean Payton. The Colts were unprepared for it and it helped keep momentum on the side of the Saints, who trailed 10-6 at the half. But that wasn’t the key play.
Manning coughing up the ball with his team poised to tie the game late in the fourth quarter was the killer play. You just can’t make weak throws like that against a defense that relies on making big plays. Porter and Darren Sharper are playmakers who thrive on jumping routes. The throw was bad and the route run by Wayne wasn’t great either.
“It certainly was disappointing,” Manning added. “We were down seven there…I give the Saints a lot of credit.”
Manning supporters will tell you that killer interception shouldn’t dent his legacy. It won’t. He is a truly great quarterback. But any talk of him being included on the Joe Montana-John Elway-Johnny Unitas-Bart Starr-Tom Brady list of all-time greats is all but dashed for now. Manning’s playoff record is 9-9 with 28 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
Manning’s 19th interception will go down as the play that allowed the Saints to come marching in.
That’s it. That’s all she wrote. Cased closed.