We knew last night’s NFL game was going to be ugly. Without Peyton Manning — out indefinitely after preseason neck surgery — the Colts have gone from Super Bowl contender to winless cellar-dweller. Sending them to New Orleans to face a motivated Drew Brees and the Saints, who needed a win after losing last week to Tampa Bay, seemed almost cruel. NBC tried to put a positive spin on the matchup, reminding viewers that the two teams squared off just 20 months ago in Super Bowl XLIV. That the Saints would be playing with their own injured Payton — head coach Sean Payton was on crutches after a player slammed into him during last week’s game, forcing him to the coaches’ box upstairs. That Brees and Manning’s replacement’s replacement, quarterback Curtis Painter, were both former Purdue stars. (Ooooooo, Boilermaker Bowl!) And that the Colts, though 0-6, had played hard, losing four of those six by only eight points or less.
Nice try, NBC. Fortunately, I was prepared for the Saints’ 62-7 rout, armed with a detailed list of household chores to keep me awake during the game. No. 1: Carve up my kids’ Halloween jack o’lantern. Though I’m not a Florida Gators alum, I was tempted to carve Tim Tebow’s face into my pumpkin after his heroic exploits against Miami. The former Heisman Trophy winner is practically a demigod to his many admirers, yet he still is fighting for respect as a professional signal-caller. His problem is that he looks more like a fullback in the offensive backfield — especially when he throws the ball. Despite some truly hideous passes (13-of-27) against the winless Dolphins, he rallied the Broncos for the game’s final 18 points, including a two-point conversion that sent the game into overtime. It wasn’t pretty but it was exciting, and it guaranteed that the Tim Tebow Experiment will continue. It also provided this insightful gem:
The Rodney Harrison Award for Most Obvious Analytical Statement That Retains a Whiff of Profundity Because Rodney Harrison Said It and He Is Undeniably Cool
“You have to realize with young quarterbacks, the more experience they have, the more comfortable they will be.” — NBC’s Rodney Harrison, on Tebow’s uneven but thrilling performance.
During the pregame show, Peyton Manning was once again a no-show. (He didn’t sit for an interview when the Colts faced the Steelers four weeks ago either.) NBC analyst Tony Dungy coached Manning for seven seasons, but he admitted that his former field general offered up mostly one-word answers during their off-camera interactions during the week. Instead, Dungy sat down with Manning’s two favorite receivers, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, and Clark damned Painter with faint praise, calling him a “delicate flower.” (Following that tepid endorsement, I assume there was a wave of late money that came in for the heavily-favored Saints.)
Football Night in America seemed uncharacteristically off its game, causing me to wonder for the first time whether the 75-minute show is too long. Insiders Peter King and Mike Florio had good scoop, like Plaxico Burress’ emotional reaction to his first huge game following his prison sentence and Bill Cowher’s potential interest in the Miami Dolphins coaching job. But later in the program, when Dan Patrick checked back in with them, they simply regurgitated those same reports practically verbatim. Maybe they assumed some viewers were still watching the last moments of the late games on other channels during their initial news report, thus necessitating repetition? Neither exclusive, though, seemed world-stopping enough to be recycled to the loyal audience watching from the outset.
NEXT: Brees and Co. stomp “The Delicate Flower”