The run is over. Winning two in a row on the road against the Chargers and the Colts was a bit too much for this damaged Pats team. On the whole a good season - a better season ultimately than the seasons of all but two other NFL teams. But when it mattered, the middle of the Pats' D simply could not stop the Colts' passing game. And so the Pats get to watch the Super Bowl from home.
Would the Pats have had these difficulties if they'd had Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau? If they'd had both of them, I don't think so. Seau isn't quite the LB he was ten years ago, but he's still a very intelligent player and was doing a great job in the middle before his injury. And Rodney Harrison would have been a Pro Bowler this year if he hadn't had his two injuries. The second one is particularly galling for Pats fans, since he had just come back from the broken scapula and then the stupid Titans hit his knee with a possibly illegal block. (The Pats maintain it was illegal based on the direction the block was happening.)
And the other annoying injury, one that doesn't quite get enough mention, is whatever the hell is wrong with Brady. Brady watchers noticed that he was inexplicably missing wide open receivers time and time again in the second half of the season. And of course, he was on the injury list every week. Kinda of a good hint that he's actually injured. Sure, Coach B is not above messing around with the injury list, but in this case I think something was actually going on.
Injuries are a part of football, and the Colts also had some to deal with. Bob Sanders had just come back from a serious injury and had revitalized their defense, and then in the game itself Peyton Manning clearly injured his thumb, to the point he was telling his backup to "Get ready".
Super Bowl preview:
Colts are going to slaughter the Bears. Give the TD, they'll probably win by more than 10 points. Super Bowls are almost always blowouts, and there's little reason to think this year will be different. If the Bears weren't missing two key defenders, I think they could stop the Colts offense - at least slow it down about as well as the Ravens did. But could they move the ball against the Colts?
That's still a question. The Bears have a good running game, and that may in theory be a problem for the Colts. But the Colts run defense has been much better in the playoffs.
And then there's the Bears' passing game. "Erratic" is too kind a word. But it's easy to make fun of Rex Grossman and forget that he has at least one very good receiver.
And thus endeth the attempt to convince myself that the Bears have any chance here. The Colts' offense is firing on all cylinder and I don't think the Bears are going to be able to bring enough of a pass rush to slow it down. Also, the Colts have been on the cusp of winning the Super Bowl for a few years now and they really want it bad. They are going to be highly motivated and will likely play mistake-free football.
When all is said and done, the Pats did the Colts a huge favor by taking down the one team that would have slaughtered them - the Chargers. So this is the Colts' year.
I might not stay up for the whole thing. I can't root for the Colts because, well, they're the Colts. And I can't root for the Bears because I still remember Super Bowl XX and because, well, I have a bet riding on the Colts.