By Michael Parente
Looks like we’re back to square one again, allowing an epic, back-and-forth Sunday night thriller at Gillette Stadium to digress into another Tom Brady-Peyton Manning sword fight with no real winner or loser, unless you count the thousands upon thousands of losers who subject themselves to reading the obligatory Brady vs. Manning column the following morning.
This is not one of those columns. The Brady-Manning debate deals in too many absolutes. Brady always gets it done when it counts. Manning can’t win the big game. Manning can’t win in cold weather. None of them are true. They’re myths, much like the Loch Ness Monster or Nicki Minaj’s butt implants, myths based off of small, outdated sample sizes that have taken on a mythological life of their own in recent years.
Who’s to blame? Did Manning pass the buck, or did Del Rio try to run prevent offense in the second quarter? The Monday-morning critics who deadpanned Manning’s perceived inability to execute in cold weather or make plays when he needs to make them conveniently ignored his fourth-quarter drive in which he completed 5 of 9 passes, including the game-tying 11-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. The guy’s good – real good – and he wasn’t too shabby in overtime either when he led the Broncos to New England’s 39-yard line before Del Rio again sucked the life out of the team with back-to-back running plays that netted a grand total of two yards. They might’ve scored on their first drive, too, had Eric Decker not done his best Tony Parker impersonation by practically screening a New England defender in the middle of the field, negating a first down at the Patriots’ 48 and instead putting the ball back at the Denver 42.
What’s shameful is Decker’s penalty and Del Rio’s curious play-calling never gave the Broncos a chance to make Bill Belichick pay for foolishly deferring the winning coin toss in overtime and electing to kick rather than receive. Citing the swirling winds as the motivating factor, Belichick instead decided to let Denver begin overtime on offense with the wind in its face. Even with the new overtime format, which allows the defensive team one chance to respond if the receiving team scores at least a field goal on its opening drive, this was about as dumb as Rick Vaughn intentionally loading the bases to pitch to Jack Parkman in Major League 2.
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