EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

February 8, 2010

How did Manning blow this? Sheer panic

On Pro Football

Hector Longo

If one statistic indicts Peyton Manning and his bid to claim his spot at the top of the NFL quarterback hierarchy, it is sacks.

Rinse out the sweat, hold the detergent, Manning's uniform doesn't need to be washed. Manning dropped back to pass 45 times and wasn't touched.

Zero sacks.

Hardly a lineman's glove grazed him.

How did he lose? It's a question that ESPN and all the rest of the NFL's media sycophants will ignore, one that Boston sports talk radio callers will salivate over longer than the pre-Mardi Gras celebration lasts on Bourbon Street.

How could Manning - untouched, unflustered, unhurried and - undeniably toss this one away?

The pressure, not from the Saints but foisted upon himself, sunk Manning and the Colts. This was not a matter of Gregg Williams' defense confusing the Colts.

It was simply a matter of a quarterback realizing what hung in the balance - NFL immortality - and spontaneously combusting.

As tirelessly as CBS' Phil Simms worked to try and cover for Manning's pocket collapse, creating the illusion of Saints' phantom blitzers in his face, you couldn't mask it.

He should have been picked twice before in the fourth, once by Jonathan Vilma and a second time by Malcolm Jenkins.

Finally, Tracy Porter pounced on Manning's panic. With nobody around Manning, he threw a strike to Porter, for the clinching defensive TD. Wayne never had a chance.

Manning's unraveling on the national stage was complete.

All he could offer for a defense was: "He made a great play. He made a great play. Porter made a heck of a play."

And that was after he droned on about the importance of not fielding the onside kick.

Manning's 88.5 quarterback rating (31 of 45 for 333 yards) in the game won't deter his unwavering backers. Neither will the result.

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