The Broncos playoff loss to the Ravens pretty much sucked for everyone here in Colorado. I was pulling pretty hard for the Broncos to win the super bowl this year–even more than I was pulling for the Redskins–most of my friends still aren’t ready to talk about it. But fuck it, I have something to say on the topic.
After the Ravens tied the score at 35, the Broncos got the ball on their 20 with 31 seconds and two timeouts available for a game winning field goal drive. This is what you might call an opportunity to win. Fox and/or Manning had the nerve to look it in the face and say, “nah, no thanks, opportunity, I’m not sure you’re good enough for us. We’ll wait for another opportunity that looks a little easier.” So Manning took a knee. And maybe they would have failed, and lost in overtime anyway. It would have made the loss a whole lot easier to take.
What can we possibly take from this, other than the conclusion that the Broncos weren’t trying very hard to win? Not if it was going to be hard, I guess. Of course, they went on to lose in overtime. They freaking deserved it, too.
There was no way for Peyton to know this was such a big deal was there?
The funny thing is, this has happened before.
Toward the end of 2009, the Colts were 14-0. The big question everybody was talking about was whether or not they should play hard and take on the “extra pressure” of going undefeated (whatever that means). Manning and then-Colts coach Jim Caldwell decided they didn’t want to do anything too fancy like “going undefeated.” They just wanted to be a humble super bowl winning team. This, I think, is a cardinal sin for any competitor. How can they look themselves in the mirror, and say “well we lost today, but it’s okay because we weren’t really trying.” They eventually the super bowl lost to a Saints team that was absolutely trying to win. Is it possible that their lackluster attitude carried over? Did the football gods “punish” them for their hubris? I like to think so.
There was no way for John Fox to know this was such a big deal, was there?
The really funny thing is, this has happened before.
John Fox coached the 2003 Carolina Panthers, who played the Patriots in the super bowl that year. You may remember the Panthers tying the score at 29, and kicking off to the Pats with 1:08 in the game. I remember the TV announcers arguing that Brady should take a knee and play for overtime, going for it was “too risky.” “What if Brady throws an interception, giving the Panthers the win? They’ll wish they played for overtime then!” You may also remember Brady throwing for it, and the Patriots winning on a last-second field goal.
This may be the second super bowl Fox has lost, and the second Manning has lost, thanks to mistakes they have both made before. It seems ind of pathetic when you look at it like that, doesn’t it?
I believe in a universe that teaches lessons to her favorite sons. The lesson was pretty blatant in 2009, compared to the more subtle situation this year, a subtle test to see if Peyton had learned anything. He hadn’t, and now all of Colorado is paying the price.
Let’s hope he’s got at least one more MVP-caliber year left in him. It was supposed to be this year. Every passing year makes it less and less likely for him to go out like his boss, with two straight championships and calling it done. He better hurry, because RGIII and the Redskins aren’t very far from being ready to claim their own titles.
It’s hard to find much that sucks about a situation where you win a super bowl, but wouldn’t it kind of suck if the Broncos were to win it next year so Manning could go for the Elway, but then they lost the second super bowl? Oh man.
I have the NBC no-football-this-week special on TV as I write this. Chris Collinsworth just asked Jared Allen if teams will be playing this new read-option offense in five years, and Allen cited the wildcat, saying the read-option is is fad just like the wildcat was. Sorry, Jared, but I think you have it wrong. I think the wildcat was the precursor to the read option offense. The wildcat was a kind of proof-of-concept for it. The Redskins, the 49ers, and the Panthers (if they knew what was good for them) are pretty committed to the read-option for the foreseeable future. It will be here in 2017 and beyond.
Allen did make a good point that there are creative defensive minds thinking about ways to stop the option offense too; this is the way of football. Chuck Klosterman wrote about this in the most beautiful essay about football I’ve ever read; it’s hosted at ESPN. He points out how despite football’s traditional “conservative” fan base, the sport itself is the most progressively liberal sport out there. He points to the constantly evolving punch/counterpunch of new offenses changing the game, until new defenses come about to stop it, and so on. It’s a great read, I heartily recommend it.