January 24, 2010
All season long, the refrain from analysts and fans (myself included) was, "The NFL is a passing league now, baby!" In recent weeks, though, on account of the success of the New York Jets, we had a shift back in the direction of the old maxim, "In the playoffs, you've got to be able to run the ball."
What just happened, though, is that the Jets came out with the same league-best rushing attack and league-best defense that had been beating everyone else. The Colts countered with their "league-worst" rushing attack, and the end result was that Peyton Manning(notes), the best quarterback on the planet, shredded the Jets like he was making a green and white cole slaw and put the Colts in the Super Bowl.
It's still a league that belongs to the passers, I say.
Not that it was all smooth sailing for Manning. It took him a quarter or so to get the Jets' defense figured out (not something many other quarterbacks would've been able to do in four quarters), but once he did, it was open season.
Suddenly, the Jets looked like any other defense. They want to take away Reggie Wayne(notes) and Dallas Clark(notes)? No problem. Manning went instead to Pierre Garcon(notes) and Austin Collie(notes), who combined for 18 catches, 274 yards and two touchdowns. Manning threw for 377 yards on the day, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Colts scored 30 points and had 461 total yards.
The Jets did not play a bad game here. Their defense, for a good portion of the first half, looked like they'd stonewall the Colts like they did the Bengals and Chargers. Mark Sanchez(notes) had his best game of the playoffs, converting a number of big third downs en route to a 257-yard, two-touchdown day. His only interception came in garbage time.
Peyton Manning was just too smart and too good. He treated the Jets like they were the Jaguars, Texans, Seahawks, Titans or any other defense he destroyed this season.
For my money, a great passer still beats a great anything else. That's what happened Sunday. A great passer beat everything the opposition threw at him.
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