Admit it Colts fans, they had you nervous.
Peyton Manning being sacked twice in a scoreless first quarter was probably nowhere to be found in the game plan.
The Jets came out throwing the football as well and that certainly was a wrinkle they were not supposed to have, as a rookie quarterback simply hands it off and allows the National Football League’s No. 1 running game to do the rest.
It all seemed to be working for the Jets for the first 27 minutes of the game, as they took it to the Colts and looked like they just might punch their own ticket to the Super Bowl in Miami. The visitors indeed looked stout in the opening stanza as they held the Colts in check and as mentioned previously, introduced Manning to the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium on two separate occasions.
But when a six-minute New York drive produced a missed field goal attempt, things were still even as the second quarter unfolded. Despite two penalties in the red zone, the Colts were able to manage a field goal on their ensuing drive to open the scoring, and set the stage for a second quarter in which both teams would display an incredible amount of defensive futility.
New York’s Mark Sanchez found Braylon Edwards wide open on the first play of their next possession and when Edwards took it 80 yards for a touchdown; Lucas Oil Stadium was so quiet you could hear the corn popping in the concession stands.
The Colts would regroup and march down the field, only to have the Jets defense force them to settling for a field goal and trim the lead to 7-6. However, it would take New York just less than four minutes to move down the field, and when Sanchez found former Purdue stand out Dustin Keller wide open for a touchdown, New York led 14-6.
The Colts would proceed to cough the ball up on a fumble by Joseph Addai, and the Jets would parlay the turnover into a field goal and suddenly they led Indianapolis 17-6.
Manning and company would finally wake up the passing game and by virtue of three completions to rookie wide receiver Austin Collie, the latter covering 48 yards for a touchdown, the Colts were back in business at halftime trailing just 17-13.
The Jets would open the second half with a seven-play drive that produced yet another missed field goal and handed the ball back to an anxious Indianapolis offense on their own 34 yard line.
Manning put the running game on the shelf and wasted no time going up top, as he marched the ball down the field and put the Colts back in the lead when he found Pierre Garcon for a four-yard touchdown reception.
While the Indianapolis defense was exploited greatly in the first half, it rose to the occasion in the second half, holding the Jets scoreless and allowing their offense the time to be both methodical and precise. As a result, the Colts would tack on an additional 10 points while holding New York scoreless in the second half. Indeed a Super Bowl quality performance.
Notes: While the defense flexed it’s muscles in the second half, there were some glaring problems in the first half that will no doubt be a point of interest for their opponent in the Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints advanced to their first ever Super Bowl appearance by defeating the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game.
While the Jets did an excellent job in neutralizing both Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie picked up the slack with monster games of their own.
Garcon established an AFC Championship game record with 11 receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown. Collie countered with seven receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown of his own.
New York quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for 257 yards on the day. How well does that stat bode for an encounter against the talented Drew Brees of New Orleans? Not good Colts fans.
Joseph Addai pumped some life into the Colts anemic ground game by rushing for a respectable 80 yards in 16 carries.
Hats off to NFL Security for keeping the post-game celebration on the field in check for the players and working media.
After being roughed up unjustly on the field by Colts security in December of 2008, I really appreciated being able to move freely and safely after the game. The NFL security guys are truly pros and will no doubt do it even better in Miami.
Colts kicker Matt Stover at age 42, will become the oldest player to participate in a Super Bowl. Stover has been rock solid for the Colts this year.
The 44th edition of the Super Bowl is Feb. 7 in Miami and will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on CBS. Colts fans looking to attend can find travel packages (including game tickets) at various travel agencies in Indianapolis. Be prepared to shell out what I consider to be ridiculous sums of money for these packages.
Danny Bridges, whose social life in Miami will consist of an Orange Julius and being in bed no later than 10 p.m. each night, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.