Drew Brees and the Saints put up biggest offensive explosion since 1970, handing the Indianapolis Colts their worst loss ever
Drew Brees

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”

On to the slaughter game. Though I admit to sharpening my pumpkin knife once Al Michaels made a winking reference to Alexander Haig (“I’m in control here.”) to describe the Saints’ unusual coaching circumstance, I resisted slicing up the pumpkin as long as the game remained competitive. That proved to be a short stay of execution: Painter and the Colts offense came out determined to run the same complex hurry-up O that Manning — and no one else — masters. From the outset, Painter and his teammates were visibly confused, and when a distracted Painter fumbled a shotgun snap on the sixth play of the game, my dagger ripped into Mr. Pumpkin.

Brees carved up the Colts defense with similar precision, quickly converting the turnover into a 14-yard touchdown pass. After the Colts came up empty on the second possession, Brees took less than two minutes to go 81 yards for a second score. The Colts fumbled on their next possession, and Brees made them pay again. 21-0. And the first quarter wasn’t even over yet.

I suppose I’m obligated to go on, but the rest of the game is a blur. I may have switched the channel before I blacked out but I believe Mike Napoli hit a three-run home run in the second quarter, and then there were zombies chasing Curtis Painter. Anyway, when I came to, I was coated with pumpkin seeds and the score was 62-7, Saints. Brees led the Saints to a score on nine consecutive possessions. Mercifully, he left the game late in the third quarter, and the Battle of the Boilermakers was over. Brees finished 31-of-35 for 325 yards and five touchdowns. Curtis “The Delicate Flower” Painter was pulled for the Colts fourth-string quarterback after passing for only 67 yards.

Michaels and Cris Collinsworth did their best to instill some drama into the proceedings. At halftime, with the Saints leading 34-7, much was made of the fact that Brees hadn’t communicated with his hobbled leader, Sean Payton, who remained isolated in the coaches’ box high in the stadium. But once cameras captured Payton gobbling a hot dog and laughing with his crew, it was clear that there were no hurt feelings. The only thing left to discuss was the Colts’ sad state. Without Manning, they might not win a game, lending credence to the notion that he theoretically deserves at least a few Most Valuable Player votes this season even though he hasn’t played in a single game. “All the chickens have come home to roost,” said Michaels, referring to the Colts’ long reliance on Manning’s brilliance to band-aid the team’s multiplying weaknesses. Never before has one player’s value been so apparent.

Did you watch the whole game last night? If so, which player was your son/husband?

What other games did you watch Sunday afternoon? Are you now a believer in Tebow Magic? What did you think of the Oakland debut of Carson Palmer, who threw three interceptions against Kansas City? And does Rex Ryan get excused now for ripping Norv Turner after the Chargers’ pathetic two-minute offense came up short?


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Football Night in America
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