Remember the '96 Masters? The one where Greg Norman fell apart in sections and slapped up the 78, so Nick Faldo sneaked in the back door and won the Green Jacket, even consoling Norman after the tournament because it was that bad? That defeat was 10 times more devastating to Norman than the victory was satisfying to Faldo, if that makes sense. It affected one person much more deeply than the other. You could argue that Norman was never the same.
There should be an easier way to describe these moments in sports -- only because they happen from time to time, and there's no way to quantify that dynamic when it happens -- so maybe we should start calling them "Faldos." Seems simple enough.
I mention this only because Thursday's game was a borderline Faldo for the Colts. They squandered a winnable game on the road, one of those nights that would have changed the complexion of the AFC. If they took that game, everyone would have been asking, "How can you stop these guys?" and raving about the rejuvenated Edge (who looked fantastic). As it turns out, we're talking about those two turnovers inside the 5, and Manning getting outplayed by Brady again, and the sack that never should have happened in the final minute, and the so-called All-Pro kicker missing a 48-yarder that the guy on the other sideline would have nailed. Now they're right back at Square One, a team that still can't take care of business when it matters.
If you're a Pats fan right now, you're not crazy about the way they looked. Maybe you're missing Ted Washington and wondering why Charlie Weis kept screwing around when the Pats could have scored 35-plus just by playing it straight. But you're happy that the streak keeps going, that Brady looked fantastic, that last year's mojo seems to have rolled over . . . and you can't even get that riled up because you're in Year One of another five-year grace period.
If you're a Colts fan right now? You're reeling from a borderline Stomach Punch Game. You're doubting your team. You're wondering what's different from last year, other than the Edge turning it up a notch in a contract year. You're tired of seeing the Peyton Manning Face. And you're praying that the Colts finish with a better record than the Pats, so you don't have to come back to Foxboro in four months.
And if that's not enough, here's Al Michaels's call right after the miss: "Wide right, and the Indianapolis Colts will go home again in total exasperation after playing in New England."
Sounds like a Faldo to me.
Some other quick thoughts on Thursday's Pats-Colts game:
Well, I'm not sure if that's fair. On second down, he threw to Wayne for a TD and it got broken up. But Manning handled that final drive poorly -- after the 46-yarder to Stokely, they were on the 19 yard-line with 90 seconds on the clock. That's a ton of time. But Manning rushed everyone up to the line, then threw a curious slant pattern to Harrison for three yards, one of those no-chance patterns. Then he made that throw to Wayne in double coverage, which stopped the clock with 49 seconds left. Now it's 3rd-and-8, they're still rushing -- why???? -- and Willie gets the sack when nobody blocks him, leading to the miss.
That's terrible football. I didn't think either team played particularly well, but a great QB takes care of business in that final 90 seconds, doesn't he? In their primes, I just don't think Elway or Marino would have panicked like that on those last three plays, not with all that time left.
|NFL PICKS -- WEEK 1|
(Home teams in caps)|
Titans (-3) over DOLPHINS
Raiders (+4) over STEELERS
REDSKINS (-1.5) over Bucs
BROWNS (+3) over Ravens
Jaguars (+3) over BILLS
JETS (-5) over Bengals
Lions (+3) over BEARS
RAMS (-11) over Cardinals
SAINTS (+3) over Seahawks
TEXANS (-5) over Chargers
EAGLES (-9) over Giants
VIKINGS (-4.5) over Cowboys
NINERS (+3.5) over Falcons
BRONCOS (-3) over Chiefs
PANTHERS (-3) over Packers
(Season record: 0-0-1.)
See, I think Manning has two faces. There's the one you just described, and then there's the "I can't believe that just happened" face, which he breaks out for special occasions (like Vanderjagt's miss last night). Strangely enough, his brother Eli made the exact same face when he was getting booed by the crowd during the NFL Draft. It must run in the family.
But the Bug's right. Willie is one of those guys who will retire some day and be forgotten immediately -- in that Cedric Maxwell-Bobby Jones-Paul O'Neill category -- and yet the fans who rooted for his team will always remember him fondly. These are the guys who make the difference between "Remember when we won three titles in four years?" and "I can't believe we didn't win the title during those four years."
(By the way, the officiating was Bavetta-esque last night ... and let's just say that the Pats weren't playing the role of the Knicks.)
|TAKING A GAMBLE|
Upset pick of the week: Niners (+160).|
Teaser of the week: None
Parlay of the week: Eagles-Rams-Texans ($100 to win $110, all 3 teams have to win)
Well, he missed. Now THAT is comedy. Nothing like a trash-talking field goal kicker not being able to back it up. And then he gave us this beauty: "It sucks. I wanted to make it to help Edge out, I wanted to make it to help Peyton out, I wanted to make it so we could win this game. They're clearly not a better team than us. We needed a three-pointer to win the game, but 48 [yards is] no gimmie."
(Note to Mike: Umm, until you beat the Patriots, and until your QB stops choking in big spots, they're "clearly" a better team than you. This is how sports works. If somebody keeps beating you, that makes them better. This is why we keep score. But please, keep saying stuff like this, because these are the things that make it impossible for the Patriots to lose any semblance of motivation during a 16-game winning streak that stretches over two years.)
For what it's worth: Two of my buddies back home attended last night's game, both reporting that it was the greatest crowd of their lifetimes. Pretty strong words. Bug has been to every relevant Pats game of both Super Bowl seasons, and he claims last night's crowd topped everything, even the Snow Game. Between the Sox and the Pats, people in New England are just beside themselves right now. Of course, here in Hollywood, people are riled up because Shaq ripped Kobe in his new rap song.
I think I need to make a trip home soon.
One more thing: Starting next Friday, this will become a weekly NFL gambling column along the lines of my playoff columns from last winter. For Week One only, you'll have to settle for quick picks.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.