He practiced making a field goal. And for one of the few times on a frigid afternoon-turned-evening in Denver, something turned out exactly as planned.
The game that seemed like it was destined never to end finally did, much to the dismay of 76,732 shivering fans and a quarterback who had seemed destined to take the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. It was Peyton Manning’s interception that gave the Baltimore Ravens their golden opportunity in the 38-35 win, though Manning could hardly be blamed for the Broncos being in that position to begin with.
He was still playing deep into overtime for the same reason Ray Lewis will go on to play at least one more game before calling it a career. Lewis was on the sideline probably rehearsing his farewell speech when a shocking collapse by the Denver secondary allowed a game tying touchdown on a 70-yard pass to Jacoby Jones with just 31 seconds left.
A frigid weekend in January. A big-time quarterback under center. And a fourth quarter drive engineered by Manning that appeared to wrap up this playoff win with a giant bow.
It was tough enough to win it. Trying to describe it all afterward might have been even tougher.
Indeed it did, warts and all. Yes, the brilliant plays were all there _ how many times have you seen a player start both halves with long kick returns for touchdowns as Denver’s Trindon Holliday did? _ but the miscues were almost as memorable and arguably more significant.
That begins with Manning, who was supposed to be the coolest one on a very cool field but had three turnovers that led directly to 17 points. It continues with Ravens punt and kickoff return teams that gave up scores that might have sunk any team that didn’t believe like it was supposed to win no matter what happened.
But the play that will be debated and dissected in Denver for far longer than Tebowmania ever lasted was the biggest gaffe of all. It came after standout cornerback Champ Bailey had already been beaten for two long touchdown passes, and everyone in the stadium was asking the person in the seat next to them what happened to the vaunted Broncos pass defense.
Eight men were playing off the line, knowing the game was theirs unless something freakishly horrible happened. Eight men who all knew a desperation pass was coming but somehow were unable to defend against it.
Eight men who could do nothing but watch as Jacoby strutted into the end zone with the tying score.View Entire Story
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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