- Not to go all Bill Simmons on you, but what we have here—a one score conference championship game with two of the best quarterbacks in the game—is pretty damn sweet.
- Manning's been pretty perfect in the second half. He's got the Patriots sucking wind, still with 14:00 to play in the game. Phil Simms mentions that it's very hot in the building, and I wonder if that's by design. That's something Belichick would do.
- 2nd and goal from the 2-yard-line... the give to Dominic Rhodes, and he's short, and he coughs it up. Recovered in the endzone by Jeff Saturday, making that the third lineman-scored touchdown of the day. We're tied back up at 28, and the Patriots defense needs Tom Brady to engineer a long touchdown drive that eats up some time. They need a rest. Tom Brady should go at a medium pace.
- They'll get four downs of rest, because the Patriots are punting. I don't know how exactly they plan to stop Peyton Manning on this drive. They haven't even come close to doing that in the second half. What they're going to need is a Manning choke-job, because they can't stop him on their own.
- The Pats catch a couple of breaks when Reggie Wayne falls on first down, and then Peyton Manning trips over Joseph Addai on second down. 3rd and 17 now... Manning throws, and it's over Wayne's head. Dangerous, ugly, fluttering throw... and the Colts will punt.
- The Colts hand the Patriots 15 yards on a facemask penalty on a punt... and now Peyton Manning appears to have some sort of a thumb problem, which, as Nantz points out, might have led to that last fluttering pass. The drama builds.
- Oh, the replay shows Manning's thumb cracking the helmet of Tarik Glenn... and Manning just told Jim Sorgi to be ready. Jim Sorgi does not look ready. Jim Sorgi looks 14.
- Tom Brady, meanwhile, remains as dapper and handsome as ever. He's got the Patriots down inside the 15 already.
- I've never seen a play quite like that. Reche Caldwell, before the snap, is waving his arms like a madman, because no one is covering him. Brady finally sees it and throws it to him, and Caldwell just flat out drops it. Fucking guy uses soap dishes for contact lenses.
- Brady can't get it to Caldwell on third down... and Steven Gostkowski is on for the field goal. He puts it through, and the score is 31-28.
- Manning floats one to Dallas Clark over the middle, Clark is loose, and that goes for 52 yards... Manning just avoided the sack there, and the Colts are at the Pats 25 yard line. It was another ugly, fluttering pass, but it was on the money. A nice, tight spiral at some point soon would be reassuring.
- On third down, they keep it on the ground, which I don't understand. Here comes Vinatieri to tie things up, and this is just automatic from 36. 5:31 to go, and we're all tied up.
- Ellis Hobbs continues to earn his keep today, taking the return out near midfield.
- On 3rd and 10, and you've got to think this was designed to get Gostkowski a few extra yards, they go to Heath Evans on a draw play. Gostkowski, 3:49 to play, tie game... it's up, and it's perfect. He has more than answered the call today.
- 3rd down for Manning, as the Patriots finally get a little bit of pressure to him... and Peyton Manning took a shot to the head there. I'm not saying I wanted it to be called, but much smaller offenses have been whistled.
- Ray Mickens makes a big play on 3rd down, stepping in to break up a pass at the last second. The Patriots defense, give them credit, has come up with stops when it didn't look like they could. 3:22 left for the Pats, 3-point lead. And they just gave up a 5-yard penalty for too many men in the huddle... who are they, the Chargers? Not that that five yards will be the difference, but you never know. It's something given away that didn't need to be.
- Big 3rd and 4... Brady drops back and is very nearly intercepted... Sanders just had a great beat on Brady there, but couldn't make the catch. Just over 2 minutes, the Colts will have the ball at the own 20. Two timeouts, time's not really a factor at the moment.
- If anyone's made themselves some money during these playoffs, it's Bob Sanders. Has anyone else built a reputation quite like he has over the past couple of weeks?
- At the 2:00 warning, Reggie Wayne catches a slant and HOLY JESUS HE LET GO OF THE BALL, BUT NO HE DIDN'T. He got it right back, and there's a roughing the passer call on the Patriots. Just brutal. Whatever disease the Chargers had, they passed it on to the Patriots.
- 3rd and 2, 1:02 left... I am actually nervous for Peyton Manning, and I could give a fuck about Peyton Manning.
- Joseph Addai right up the middle, and that's a touchdown. Tom Brady... doesn't even look. The Colts will go up by four, and Tom Brady will have close to one minute to get the Patriots a touchdown.
- I don't think there's any way the Colts lose from this point. The defense will be so fired up, the crowd will be so live... every force in that building is working against the Patriots. And Ellis Hobbs can't save them this time. He's out to about the 20.
- Manning's head is down at the ground, he can't make himself look. I don't know if he's praying, or ready to puke. His hands are clasped, his head is down and not moving. You could pee on his face right now, and he wouldn't move.
- Boom. Intercepted, and the Colts are the AFC Champions. Manning has beaten Brady.
- This game, and say what you want about all the bullshit hype, but this has been a hell of a lot of fun. Manning takes a knee, and we're done. Brady runs onto the field and heads straight for Manning. Peyton Manning sought out Belichick to shake his hand, and he barely even got a cursory glance from Belichick.
- And I'm checking out... it's been real gang. I think Will plans on mentioning all of this again tomorrow. Have a good night.