King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Bears, Colts make Super Bowl. Manning doesn't choke, Brady doesn't win. It's like nothing makes sense anymore.

Topics:

Never say never. Never say always. Never think it’s always going to be the way it has always been.

Everything we know about the NFL’s best rivalry is no longer true. The New England Patriots don’t and won’t always beat the Indianapolis Colts. Even when they get a big lead. We know this because the Patriots got a big lead Sunday in the AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis, 21-3, and in what turned into one of the best games in conference championship history, the Colts came back, fell behind again, came back again, took the lead and held on, 38-34.

The Colts will play the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl in Miami on Feb. 4. The Bears blasted the New Orleans Saints 39-14 in Chicago for the NFC championship. Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy became the second black head coach to make it to the Super Bowl about three and a half hours after his friend and protégé, Chicago coach Lovie Smith, became the first.

We learned Sunday that Tom Brady, given the ball and enough time to mount a game-winning drive in the playoffs, won’t always mount a game-winning drive in the playoffs. Down by four with 54 seconds left and 79 yards from the goal line, Brady took the Patriots to the Indy 44 with two completions. Then he threw one that Marlin Jackson of the Colts stepped in front of for the clinching interception.

We learned that Peyton Manning won’t always wilt in the big playoff game, even against New England. Oh, it looked that way for a while. There were overthrows of wide-open receivers, delay-of-game penalties and, finally, an interception by Asante Samuel, returned for a touchdown and a 21-3 New England lead 21 and a half minutes into the game.

There were boos from the home fans at the end of the first half, which ended with the Patriots up 21-6 and the Colts having been shut out of the end zone for six straight quarters.

But Manning and the Colts offense had shown some life on a drive that started at their 12 with 3:06 left and ended 2:59 later with a chip-shot field goal — drawing more boos. The Colts were in rhythm for the first time. It looked like too little too late, but there it was.

It was in the second half that we learned never to say always. Manning always wilts? Especially against the Patriots, his personal playoff tormentors? Not this time. He hit 14-of-23 throws for 225 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He led scoring drives of 76, 76, 67, 59 and 80 yards as the Colts piled up 32 points after halftime.



Manning had help. His offensive line mostly gave him time to operate against New England’s fierce, often-confusing pass rush, and it opened holes for Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai, who combined for 93 yards on 19 carries in the second half. The defense — well rested by then — stiffened at the right times in the fourth quarter.

And Manning didn’t really make any highlight-reel, jaw-dropping plays.

But he was great, exactly what we knew he wouldn’t be, just as we knew Brady wouldn’t try to force a pass in the final minute with the game on the line and the Patriots on the move. Just as we knew we wouldn’t see a game in which each team had an offensive lineman score a touchdown by falling on a fumble in the end zone and one team had a defensive lineman — Dan Klecko of the Colts — score one by catching a pass after lining up at fullback.

Just like that.

So now Manning gets his moment on the biggest big stage against the Bears, who found their defense just in time at wintry Soldier Field.

The Saints looked a little sharper than the Bears early in the game, but two fumbles in New Orleans territory gave Rex Grossman and the shaky-looking Bears offense short fields, which they turned into field goals.

The second fumble came on the kickoff return following the Bears’ first field goal. Returner Michael Lewis was tackled at his own 28, and the Bears stripped the ball from him as he went down. The Bears recovered. The Saints challenged the call, arguing that Lewis had been down. Replays showed that the Bears had managed to move the ball in Lewis’ arm as he was falling, but he’d held onto it and had already hit the ground when one more yank got the ball loose.

Incredibly, the officials upheld the call. The Bears kicked their second field goal three plays later, and the sequence sent the Saints reeling. After a punt the Bears drove for another field goal, a red-zone stop serving as cold comfort for New Orleans. Following yet another punt the Bears took over at their own 31.

They went 69 yards for a touchdown on eight plays. All eight plays were runs by Thomas Jones. It was as close as an NFL team can come to pushing an opponent’s face into the mud. The Bears led 16-0. The Saints looked like they were on their way to a rout. Incompletes on the first two plays of their next series, leaving them with a third-and-10, looked like confirmation.

But this being the NFL, where only the surprising can be expected, the Saints sprang to life in the two-minute drill. Marques Colston, the prize rookie receiver, made a great catch in front of Brian Urlacher for a first down. Devery Henderson caught one. So did Terrance Copper. Then Drew Brees hit Colston for a 13-yard touchdown and the Saints trailed only 16-7 at the half.

On their first possession of the second half the Saints took over at their own 7. After a five-yard gain, Reggie Bush, that other prize rookie, got behind his man on the left side. Brees lofted the ball to him, Bush faked Danieal Manning, who had come up to help, out of his jock, and then he was gone. Eighty-eight yards and a touchdown, and all of a sudden it was 16-14 Bears but it was all Saints.

History will record that the game changed again about seven minutes later, when Brees was flagged for intentional grounding in his own end zone, resulting in a safety. The teams then traded punts before Grossman drove the Bears 85 yards in five plays for a touchdown and a 25-14 lead. Another fumble recovery gave the Bears a 26-yard field they didn’t waste, Cedric Benson crashing in from the 12 for 32-14 and the effective end of a hell of a year for the Saints.

I would argue that the turning point came before that safety. Starting with 11:25 remaining in the third quarter, the Saints, down 16-14, had driven from their own 18 to the Chicago 29, where they bogged down with three straight incomplete passes. That left them facing a 47-yard field-goal attempt.

That was beyond the range of their placekicker, John Carney, so kickoff specialist Billy Cundiff came on. Now, it’s bad enough to spend a roster spot on a placekicker and a kickoff specialist, worse when your placekicker can’t manage a 47-yard boot, and worse still when the kickoff specialist can’t either. Cundiff’s kick was short, and the Bears took over at the spot of the kick, the Chicago 37.

That was much better field position than the Bears would have had even if the Saints had run a draw play on fourth-and-10 and failed to get the first down.

The Bears went three and out, but the subsequent punt, a doozy by Brad Maynard, pinned the Saints at their own 5. And that’s why Brees was in his own end zone when he inexplicably dropped straight back to pass — leaving him unable to throw the ball away without a penalty because he was still in the pocket — and then inexplicably threw the ball away.

But odd personnel decisions and play calls didn’t lose this one for the Saints. They were beaten by an opportunistic team, a big-play defense that made big plays.

The Bears will have to do that again in two weeks when they meet Manning and the Colts. The Indianapolis offense vs. the Chicago defense will be the main event, with the Bears offense and Colts defense mere undercard fighters.

Defense wins championships, people always say, but they’re not saying it this time. Vegas oddsmakers have installed the Colts as favorites by roughly a touchdown, a nod to the superior quality of the AFC.

That’s as it should be, because we’ve learned to never say always.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

No red flag [PERMALINK]

I thought New England coach Bill Belichick should have challenged the touchdown scored on a fumble recovery by Colts center Jeff Saturday. That touchdown, in the second minute of the fourth quarter, tied the score at 28-28.

The Colts had second-and-goal at the 2 when Dominic Rhodes took a handoff and fumbled as he was stopped at the 1. Saturday, standing, reached down and grabbed the ball as it sat outside the end zone, between his feet. Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi fell on top of Saturday as Saturday went down.

When Saturday hit the ground, the ball was outside the end zone, still between Saturday’s lower legs. His head and shoulders were in the end zone and Bruschi was on top of him. The play should already have been over when Saturday drew the ball up into his chest as the scrum moved more of him into the end zone.

If the Patriots had challenged the call, I think the Colts would have had a third-and-goal at the 1. And there was time. I thought this in real time, as I watched the first replay. Since this is the kind of thing that usually gets spotted by someone connected to a broadcast, I was surprised CBS didn’t go back to the replay after returning from a commercial.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

No column Tuesday [PERMALINK]

Back Wednesday. See you then.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

  • Bookmark http://www.salon.com/sports to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Get a Salon Sports RSS feed.
  • Discuss this column and the sports news of the day in Table Talk.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to kingnewsletter@salon.com.

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 14
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

      One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

      In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

      Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

      We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

      On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

      Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

      The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

      Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

      While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

      As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

      Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

      Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

      There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

    • Recent Slide Shows

    Comments

    0 Comments

    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>