Colts 38, Patriots 34

As I’m sure you all know, there’s great historical significance to the Colts’ first AFC title since relocating from Baltimore ; finally, a white QB named Manning will play in a Super Bowl.

In all seriousness, Mr. Cut That Meat had a tremenous 2nd half, and for once, it was the Hooded Casanova who came out on the short end of a close playoff game. While it might be simplistic to say Belichick was outcoached by Tony Dungy yesterday, there’s no disputing the manner in which Indy’s offense kept the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands for long stretches of the 2nd half. It took the Colts long enough to get untracked, but the way they controlled the line of scrimmage during the game’s final 30 minutes was downright clinical.

Though the Colts’ wild comeback from 21-3 down, and the poise they showed collectively during a ferocious 4th quarter should once and all bury any talk of Manning and Dungy’s abilities to win the big one, you’d be remiss in ignoring Patriot mistakes that contributed to Tom Brady’s 2nd career playoff loss. For instance, one by ownership. Dropped passes by Reche Caldwell were terribly costly (though he was bailed out by a terrific leaping grab by Jabar Gaffney for Brady’s lone TD strike), but on a day in which Indy nicely contained Corey Dillion and Laurence Maroney, isn’t it possible that Brady needed one more viable target in the air? Money aside, how much better would the offense be if Deion Branch was still around?