While it probably isn’t fair, and no wants to admit it, but I have to say (despite talk that Manning was “the best ever,”; there were a lot of folks who felt that a second super bowl ring would further bolster this argument) this: Point the finger at Peyton because if Peyton Manning plays in the Super Bowl the way he played all year, the Colts probably beat the Saints or at least push this game down to the wire; Peyton is to blame for a hard Colts loss to the Saints in Superbowl 44. Why pick on Peyton? I am not over-looking the fact that Peyton finished with very respectable numbers (31-45, 333 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 pick) against a pretty-good secondary (Tracy Porter, a second round pick our of Indiana) was already a name talked about among scouts and I thought he was one of the better coverage corner-backs in football in just his second year; Roman Harper is equally adept against the run or pass and Darren Sharper was given a lot of respect by the Colts in this game).
But Manning’s final stats are deceiving, anyone who watched this game can see past the numbers and admit that Peyton, in large part, had plenty of time in the pocket to find open receivers (he was not sacked once all game and he was hit only 3 times), but often and uncharacteristically either checked down to Joseph Addai (arguably, Addai should have had even more touches (7 passing and 13 rushing) than he did) or settled on short and intermediate routes or he missed throws he usually makes (reggie wayne on the sideline in the third quarter).
The Colts had no vertical passing game and Manning got away with a few throws that could have/should have been picked by Saints defenders prior to the horrible interception to Porter in the 4th quarter, which crushed the Colts hopes. Peyton Manning was out played by Drew Brees, who deserves the MVP award after a record 32 completions and 2 touchdown passes. Coach Payton should be applauded for the opening half call of an on-side kick, and the Saints ultimately showed the heart of champions in not folding when down 10-0.
But, a better performance from Peyton Manning wins this game for the Colts, and I think he would agree. The Saints showed themselves to be true champions and they should be celebrated for a history-making season. As Peyton Manning begins the 2010 season, at age 34, and a lockout in 2011 remains a possibility, I wonder how many more chances he gets to play on the biggest stage of sports and compete for a championship?