No Perfect Endings, Just Luck

The heir to Peyton Manning didn't believe the hype. To Andrew Luck, Sunday night's showdown wasn't about storylines, just football. And with the world focused on the other QB, he delivered a gem. Plus, more Week 7 thoughts

Soaking in what happened Sunday and what those happenings mean:

Wild-Card wonderment. It’s early. Nine games left is an eternity, etc., blah, blah, blah. But Kansas City’s win and Denver’s loss sets up at least the prospect of K.C. winning the AFC West and the Broncos being a wild card—likely the fifth seed. In that scenario Denver would play at the fourth seed. Maybe Cincinnati. Maybe Indianapolis or New England. Could you take a weekend rematch, Peyton Manning at Andrew Luck? Or Peyton Manning at Tom Brady for the 867th time? (The 866th: Nov. 24 in Foxboro.) Come to think of it, Denver at Cincinnati would be a pretty big letdown.

Sam Bradford’s done for the year; the Rams probably are too. Bradford got waylaid on a scramble out of bounds at Carolina, and an MRI back in St. Louis Sunday night revealed he tore his ACL. A shame, seeing how Bradford, completing 61 percent of his throws with 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions, was playing well even if his team wasn’t, and this season was a good time to get Bradford and his young receivers clicking together. No more. Next Monday—assuming the World Series isn’t a four-game sweep by either Boston or St. Louis—a strange doubleheader will be played in downtown St. Louis. At 7:07 p.m. Central Time, World Series Game 5 is scheduled at Busch Stadium. At 7:40 p.m. Central Time, the Rams will host the Seahawks; backup Kellen Clemens, Bernie Kosar’s favorite quarterback, will sub for Bradford, presumably. I mention this because the locals will be all-in on the Cards, the best hope for a St. Louis championship, and likely will view the Rams as a lost cause yet again and leave quite a few seats empty. In Week 4 the Rams got their clocks cleaned in a prime-time home game against the Niners. Now, in Week 8, more of the same wouldn’t be surprising. Another nationally televised debacle? Not good for the future of football in that town.

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A killer Sunday for injuries. As I spoke by phone to Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips about his late father, Bum Phillips, Sunday from Kansas City, we were interrupted. “I am sorry,’’ Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles said to Phillips. “I wasn’t trying to hurt him.’’ Wade Phillips said he knew Charles was trying to make a clean play when he blocked linebacker Brian Cushing from the side and seemed to cave in his rehabbed reconstructed left knee. Also for the Texans, Arian Foster left with a bad hamstring. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler (groin), Cincinnati cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles) and Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) could miss significant time. The Texans, on a five-game losing streak, already were in a lost season. If Cutler is gone long in Chicago, the Bears could be headed down the same road.

And, of course, there was that game in Indianapolis.

***

With all eyes on the quarterbacks, Andrew Luck was flawless, while Peyton Manning committed a costly turnover. (Zach Bolinger/Icon SMI)
With all eyes on the quarterbacks, Andrew Luck was flawless, while Peyton Manning committed a costly turnover. (Zach Bolinger/Icon SMI)

There’s not a more perfect Manning II than Luck.

You love perfect endings in sports. Entering Sunday night, a perfect ending felt like Peyton Manning being feted in Indianapolis pre-game, dueling it out with his heir, Andrew Luck, and then leading his new team to a thrilling win over his old team. But Ronnie Hillman doesn’t fumble at the 3 in perfect endings, and Pat Angerer doesn’t intercept tipped wounded ducks in perfect endings. There was something fulfilling about the new boss beating the old boss Sunday night, and the new boss not really caring about the narrative America had been obsessed with in the days before the Colts and Broncos met Sunday night. One of Luck’s good friends, tight end and former Stanford teammate Coby Fleener, told me as much a couple of hours after the Colts’ 39-33 victory.

“This game, to Andrew, wasn’t about proving himself,’’ Fleener said from Indianapolis. “One of the things I think Andrew loves about football is it’s a meritocracy. You’ve got to go out and prove yourself over and over, and for him it’s about proving himself to his teammates and his coaches—not to you and Bob Costas. And it’s not him versus Peyton. Never has been, never will.’’

After the game, Luck deflected all the praise, and all the meaning of the game, and he was most emotional—anguished, it seemed—about missing a throw to Reggie Wayne, with Wayne, contorting himself trying to make a tough catch, hurting his knee. How hurt, we don’t know. “It stinks to the nth degree,’’ said Luck. “I put a lot of blame on myself for missing that throw.”

There was no end of a movie here tonight. We won. We’re happy. But it wasn’t our Super Bowl. It’s not going to define our season or anything like that.—Coby Fleener

This game was won as much by the Indianapolis defense (more about Vontae Davis and Robert Mathis in a moment) as it was won by Luck. But in the end, to Luck, it was about normalcy, and about not ever making football any more than it is: a test of 11 against 11. The inflammatory quotes and big Wednesday and Thursday stories … If those things hype the game and boost the ratings, great. But it’s nothing Luck involves himself with, and nothing Luck feels has a bit to do with the outcome of any game. “I think we kept our focus. We didn’t let the outside sphere of influence creep into the locker room, which I think is a testament to the guys,’’ Luck said.

Meritocracy. Outside sphere of influence. Stanford words. Reminds me of the NFL scouting combine in 2012, when I found out Luck’s favorite book was Papillon, and he eschewed cable TV for his first two years of college. Didn’t have time for it; too much else to do. “Don’t go making me into a nerd,’’ he said. Or the time, on his first NFL road trip, he reminded quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen that Chicago is a great architecture city.

Colts fans gave Peyton Manning a warm reception, but they're firmly behind Andrew Luck now. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)
Colts fans gave Peyton Manning a warm reception, but they’re firmly behind Andrew Luck now. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

So, for Luck, what happened Sunday night wasn’t going to fit into our neat idea of a sportswriting narrative, no matter what happened. As Fleener said: “There was no end of a movie here tonight. We won. We’re happy. But it wasn’t our Super Bowl. It’s not going to define our season or anything like that.”

This game turned not on a play by Luck, but on one by Mathis, the longtime Manning teammate who, on this night, was his tormentor. Midway through the second quarter, Mathis showed how much Denver missed left tackle Ryan Clady. His backup, Chris Clark, was turnstiled by Mathis—the NFL sack leader with 11.5—who blindsided Manning near his own goal line. The strip-sack forced the ball out, and it bounced into the end zone, and a safety resulted. Those were the first two of 23 straight Indianapolis points. Luck led three straight touchdown drives, and by the time Manning started the comeback midway through the third quarter, it was 33-14.

Luck would be the first to tell you he had help, and not only from Mathis. Davis played the best game of his 14-month Colts tenure. The Colts were brutish with the graceful Denver wide receivers, and never let them get comfortable. “Our game plan was to be physical with their wide receivers, and if we got some flags thrown on us, so be it,’’ Davis told me after the game. “They’re pretty much a dink-and-dunk passing game, so what we tried to do is disrupt that. And we got a lot of help from our pass rush. Robert [Mathis], he’s playing like he’s 22, not 32.”

Manning and Luck shared a five-second moment after the game. Circumstances have thrown them together in history. They may never be close friends, but they will be admirers. Manning was gracious in defeat, praising the Colts and their fans and the defense, and he seemed to get prickly only when reminded that he threw some wobbly passes in the game. “I throw a lot of wobbly passes,’’ he said. “A lot of wobbly TDs too.”

Luck finished mistake-free (21 of 38, 228 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions or turnovers), and didn’t appear to be affected either before or during the game by the magnitude of it. “I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary from what I always see with Andrew,’’ said Fleener. “A lot of quarterbacks, I guess, would feel they have to do something out of the ordinary on a night like this. But Andrew understands it’s going to be his play on the field, and nothing else, that will determine his success.”

And that’s why Indianapolis should feel like the luckiest city in the NFL this morning. 

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399 comments
wavemkr
wavemkr

No it's not "odd" that you would give the award for Coach of the week to the Indy Def Coach.  Because the real winner is Monte Kiffin holding the #1 RB, McCoy to 55 yards and the much media vaunted eagles offense to 3 points.  But that would've required you to list a Cowboys coach, and as much as you hate the Cowboys that would be impossible, so that left you with the #2 Coach, so it's not odd at all, it makes perfect sense.  You're constant Cowboys Hatred made the determination.

wavemkr
wavemkr

Patriots lost and Cowboys won...... Peter the Patriots loving/Cowboys hating King must be having a horrible Monday :)


King, we need more Patriots coverage !!! LOL

DrColeKilla
DrColeKilla

Peter - love McCarver, dance at his retirement party, play a round of golf together, have a slice of his b-day cake.  But to "think everyone’s nuts for not liking Tim McCarver," is simply just slapping around those who don't share your effusive opinion of his broadcasting style.   

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

So Peter,


The NFL doesn't baby Tom Brady?  Which NFL have you been watching the past 7 seasons?  



LittleOne4u
LittleOne4u

Dear Peter, Part two

I have always respected your writting and insight into the sport arena.  Stories with a touch of experience and honesty in a world of 'more about me' is becoming a rare species on today's news headlines.

Having those thoughts in mind, I feel I am treated to the  Geriatric Ward when visiting the new website. I truelly am NOT, NOT draw to the big font and BIG pictures to each and EVERY article. DID i mention the BIG picture and CLICK on me PICTURE. 

If capital letters are screaming to shouting then  new design website must implies your readers are visually impaired and lack reading skills.

Yes, I understand WINDOW is your $$ backer. But please, must you sell the farm to write your stories? I hope we have not reach that point in journalism.

Thank you for reading this far down in the comments posted field. Most folks don't get past the first 10 responses. 

I hope refine the site to mirror more of your insight into sports and less of the marketing of windows software.

Cheers

P

Richard Long
Richard Long

$1,200 to spend the night in Indy.  And we talk about a bad economy 

Danny5
Danny5

hey Peter, what would be so wrong with a Denver at Cincy playoff game?  This is the same Cincy team that has beaten both Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in a awesome game at HOME and busted Brady's record td pass streak at HOME in beating New England.  I for one would love to see a Broncos at Bengals playoff matchup, think it would be a great game...

cfr
cfr

some things i know i think 1. whats said on the field should stay on the field. 2. hair tackles can break necks and should  be illegal, and horse collar tackles should be legal since a player is just bringing someone down by the shoulders.

skidoo
skidoo

What a sad state of affairs for Bear fans . We don't know how to act. Sure we've lost are share of games but we at least knock the snot out of folks now we score in the 40's and lose. Somewhere Papa Bear is shaking his head

M30
M30

"2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 7:

a. That wily, experienced veteran, Sheldon Richardson of the Jets, saying NFL officials baby Tom Brady. After less than two months playing real games, that is some quality opinion, Sheldon."  

Aww, how cute.  PK has to protect his man-crush against the big, bad rookie.  Just beg him for it, PK.  It's obvious.  

JesseReynolds
JesseReynolds

Page 5, #5: Why Whisenhunt was fired. Arizona decided to build from the outside in and now we are like a plastic surgery valley girl. Beautiful on the outside, empty on the inside.

carlburkhalter47
carlburkhalter47

Peter, why must you start every column with quotes from interviews you (and you alone -- oooh!) conducted immediately after a game?  The lead pages in your column aren't necessarily devoted to the prime stories of Sunday's games; it's as if the MMQB exclusive access is the determining factor.  

MVolzer
MVolzer

How about a jeer to Andrew Luck for that RIDICULOUS flop he took to draw a Roughing The Passer penalty on a Broncos lineman who barely even bumped into him. Manu Ginobli would have been too embarrassed to take a fall from that little contact. Don't try to sell me on it being a smart play or good gamesmanship, its bush league and cowardly. The NBA is handing out retroactive penalties for plays like that. I'd love to see the NFL set the example and hit Luck with a warning or fine to keep this sort of thing from becoming a trend.


Nathan16
Nathan16

Cardinals offensive line picks include a whopping 3 picks in the first 3 rounds. The o-line is 5 of the 22 starters (22.7%); add key non-starters like slot receiver, nickle back, and situational pass rusher and that's still 5 of the 25 most important players (20%). The Cards drafted half that many with only 3 of 30 possible top three draft picks. This trend improves throughout their draft picks with 13 of 70 (18.6%) possible draft picks before compensatory picks. However the lack of attention at the top of the draft is shocking. Compare that to their 7 defensive backs or 4 receivers taken in the top three rounds even through Boldin and then Fitz were already on the roster.

bayman
bayman

So, Sheldon Richardson isn't qualified to offer an opinion because he's only been playing real games for two months?  How many real games have you played, Peter?

gmartin711
gmartin711

Remind us please, how long have you been playing "real games"?  Or does your "real games" requirement apply only to actual NFL players and not to sportswriters?  Because if playing "real games" is a required qualification to have an opinion regarding NFL football, Sheldon Richardson is infinitely more qualified than you are.

Bottom line: that is some quality opinion, Pete.

maafla1
maafla1

What difference does it make how long Sheldon Richardson has been in the league?  He can see what is obvious even to a 10-year veteran, you can't breathe on Tom Brady without getting called for something.  Stop being a shill for the Patriots, Peter.  It's bad enough you shill for liberal politicians.

JamesAnthonyBryan
JamesAnthonyBryan

Big iffy calls? Both were correct calls. Timing may be iffy but refs are not supposed to take into account how much time is left when they make calls.

JamesAnthonyBryan
JamesAnthonyBryan

Jets win and you only have negative things to say? How about Rex outcoaching Belicheck for the second time this year?

beekay31
beekay31

For anyone who ever played baseball at a competitive level, McCarver is just annoyingly funny to listen to.

Mike N
Mike N

Classic Bum-

A reporter asked him why he took his wife on road trips and Bum said was too ugly to kiss good bye!

SteveLarone
SteveLarone

Coincidence is a funny thing. Jets are 4-3 but would be 2-5 without some big iffy calls that went thier way, on thier home field, on a year the giants are really bad, and on a year the SB is in NY. I really do think it is a coincidence (The jets did play well enough to win yesterday) but it will be interesting if they get any more "breaks"

boogah11
boogah11

So, Peter, YOU'RE the Tim McCarver fan???   If you actually enjoy this guy's ramblings (and they are truly ramblings in the way a 98 year-old grandpa rambles these days), then you must have truly enjoyed his "Cardboard Box" rant during game 5 of the ALCS where 'ol Timmy went ballistic over the fact that his birthday cake was delivered to the booth in....wait for it.....A CARDBOARD BOX!!!  http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2013/10/16/4847134/tim-mccarver-birthday-cake-red-sox-tigers

DeeEmm1
DeeEmm1

It's not a huge surprise that there are more California Rams fans. This is where they're from, they should have never left. Plenty of folks out here in the LA area still wear the old Rams colors, it's like they know their team will come back someday.

unclebucsi
unclebucsi

I think everyone’s nuts for not liking Tim McCarver. I love listening to him. 

Wow.

CMFJ
CMFJ

"... the new boss not really caring about the narrative America had been obsessed with in the days before..."

The question I had leading up to the game: are people really as interested in this story as the sports media is?  I'm a Broncos fan and while it was a sort of interesting side story, it was fairly far down the list of what I wanted to read about the game.  Manning seemed embarrassed by the coverage and Luck clearly had no interest in the role the media had cast for him.  That didn't seem to really make any difference to the media, who plowed ahead and made inane proclamations before, during, and after the game.

One of my favorite moments was in a show earlier in the day when someone proclaimed that nothing like this - a beloved HOF caliber player that was not able to finish his career with his original team - had ever happened before.  He paused and then tried to sneak in a mention of Favre returning to Lambeau with the Vikings, clearly not wanting facts to get in the way of hyperbole.

Devilsreject97
Devilsreject97

@wavemkr Wait...what??? The Cowboys knocked out the starting QB for the Eagles = game over for anything at that point...

 Meanwhile the Colts defense beat the Broncos, a team that dropped 50+ on the Cowboys, and pretty much beat everybody else by double digits.... I'd say that's more impressive than a team getting beat without its #1 or #2 QB available..

cdizzle
cdizzle

@LittleOne4u I believe there's an email address to which you can address your feelings.  

Devilsreject97
Devilsreject97

@cfr LOL!

Yes, grabbing someone by the back of the pads and yanking down on them should be legal. You have no clue how harmful that is. That kind of tackle is what broke Terrell Owens ankle back when he was with the Eagles. Imagine me picking you up and just slamming you to the ground. That's what a horse collar tackle is like. If idiots want to wear their hair 2 feet long and sticking out of their helmets, it's legal to grab. When I played football, hair wasn't allowed to be outside the helmet. You either cut it or didn't play....

Devilsreject97
Devilsreject97

@MVolzer 

So a cheap hit on Andrew Luck shouldn't be penalized? The QB was no longer involved in the play, the ball was several yards down field, and the Broncos player knew the rules that a QB can no longer be hit at that point. The Broncos player was an IDIOT for even doing it. You want to get upset at Luck for the stupidity that a Broncos player showed? Hell, I'd wager Peyton would have flagged  his own player for that nonsense.....don't be so dense..

Mike26
Mike26

@MVolzer Why should he jeer Luck for doing something that Manning, Brady, etc. have been doing - and being rewarded for - their entire careers?  It's gamesmanship and he's just reaping the benefits that young players don't usually get in those situations.

unitcaptain11
unitcaptain11

@maafla1   Look up the definition of "liberal" in the dictionary.  You should be a liberal too.  Jesus and the founding fathers were 'liberals".


JamesAnthonyBryan
JamesAnthonyBryan

Big iffy calls? Both were correct calls. Timing may be iffy but refs are not supposed to take into account how much time is left when they make calls.

BillAbendroth
BillAbendroth

@DeeEmm1 Yeah.  The Rams will go back to LA, right after the Giants go back to New York.

DeeEmm1
DeeEmm1

@unclebucsi he's awful now. he used to be a great color guy that knew the stats, but the game passed him by years ago.

beekay31
beekay31

@CMFJ It's called lazy journalism.  Attempt to fabricate and steer a story so you can write what you want to instead of covering what is actually occurring.

rskins09
rskins09

@CMFJ    With all the unnecessary hype I thought it was  The Academy Awards II ...

CrystalWeeks
CrystalWeeks

@unitcaptain11 @maafla1 Actually, the founding fathers fought against unreasonable taxes which by today's standards would make them definitely NOT liberal.

SteveLarone
SteveLarone

Actually I thought the Raiders got jobbed. I also thought the Saints got jobbed last week, and yes, I think the Pats got jobbed this week.

humdrumdrumhumming
humdrumdrumhumming

@Supernaut @DeeEmm1

Yeah, because there's just so many Cleveland Rams fans overwhelming the website from their old folks homes, while polishing their WWII purple hearts, just to skew the numbers.



Team history


Jon8
Jon8

@DeeEmm1 @unclebucsi 

How did the game pass him by exactly?

Did the rules change and he failed to keep up?

Did the way the game is played change, somehow?

Did he become unable to see the field?

Did he become unable to express his thoughts?

BTW, I am not a McCarver fan, I am a Vin Scully fan, but I do not see how the game passed McCarver by!!

Jon8
Jon8

@rskins09 @CMFJ 

That little poison dwarf Costas was so obviously unhappy, at the post game, that he could not read from his script!

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