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January 25, 2010 8:10 AM

Manning up, Even if Brett Didn't Quite

favre 9.jpgBefore we get rolling, a toast to the hail and hearty overseas who watched last night's NFL championships, and most likely with a toothpick or two holding their eyes open...

Good grief, by the time the Saints and Vikings were rubbing it all in by going to overtime, we were doing our best to just focus on the middle TV -- the one just above the bottle of Beefeater -- with our open eye. The Grill Room draws some tough customers, but at 5 a.m., even the rowdiest of the survivors was seen reaching for her Teddy Bear.  
Thank God, we get a week off before the Super Bowl comes calling and we have to gussy the place up, and do it all over again.

We're admittedly typing with a pronounced limp this morning, but here's what we took away from the NFL's championship showcase...

And from the Grill Room's staff to you (kleine) Prost!

Good Brett, Bad Brett

The fickle world of sport, is often cruelest to its biggest stars.

When Brett Favre was last seen quarterbacking a team vying for a Super Bowl bid, he was throwing a fluttering out-pattern into the frozen hands of N.Y. Giants' corner Corey Webster during overtime of the 2008 NFC Championship tilt played on the ultra-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
The Giants converted Favre's frozen duck into the FG that vaulted them into the Super Bowl, and sent Favre hurtling toward his brutal flirtations with retirement.

So there he was last night in the final seconds, needing only a few more yards to set his kicker up for a long, reasonable try to boot the Vikings into the Super Bowl. Instead, he did what he has done too many times during the course of his singular career, and made a ridiculously bad decision.

Favre threw late over the middle, which is something he had to have been told not to do at least 600 times during his career. Of course, he has steadfastly ignored this cardinal sin because of the occasional bouts with success he's had while breaking it.
Well, he paid, and paid big, for that sin last night when the ball landed in the hands of Saints defender Tracy Porter, thus forcing the game into overtime.

Of course, the Vikings never got the ball back, and for the second straight NFC title game, Favre's last pass was completed to an opposing player.
Favre was nothing short of heroic, enduring a brutal beating while standing in there tall against a vicious Saints rush. Once again, though, all of his guts and bravado got in the way of his brain, and a very bad decision cost him and his team a trip to the Super Bowl.
That's just a sad fact.

Manning up

In the lead-in to that NFC classic, Peyton Manning was getting this close to becoming the best quarterback we've ever seen. We're not quite ready to place him alone in the clouds yet, but nobody has ever played the position better than he did during the final three quarters of yesterday's AFC tilt against those pesky Jets.

I caught Unitas toward the end of his career and saw every bit of Montana's resume-builder, and rank them one and two, or two and one -- you pick the order. With a big performance in Miami in two weeks, Manning draws even with both of them. Maybe even passes 'em , depending...

I mean this guy is making dudes like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie look like Jerry Rice and Raymond Berry. When Manning gets cooking, it doesn't matter what player with the horseshoe on the helmet is running the pattern, he's hitting 'em right between the eyes.

If you want a boxing match analogous to yesterday's action, think Ali-Foreman. The Jets came out and hit Manning with everything they had, and he stood in there and took it. Then he answered, and by the time he was done with his statement there were exhausted, confused Jets' defenders strewn all over the Indianapolis field.
That the Colts aren't playing for perfection in two weeks, is a very loud, ugly footnote to an otherwise dandy season. But more on that as we build up to the big game.  

Jets served humble pie

And about those Jets...Only a blind cynic would call their playoff run anything but a rousing success. Good thing we're not blind.

The J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets have established themselves as legitimate up-and-comers. It looks like all the pieces -- and mostly the QB position -- are in place for a generous window of success in the coming years.
Buddy's boy, Rex Ryan, obviously has his team's attention, and they respond to the big guy by playing damn hard.
I've been plenty rough on this team this year, only because it deserved it.
This brash (often obnoxious) bunch finally got around to backing up all of their big talk after they lucked their way into the playoffs. And does anybody doubt after yesterday's game that it was pure luck that was responsible for punching their playoff ticket? If the Colts finished them off properly a month ago, the Jets season would look a lot different, no?
To their credit, the Jets made the most of their playoff gift by belting the Bengals and Chargers -- in their houses.
But they were served an ample portion of humble pie last night. Let's see if their morbidly obese coach is smart enough to eat it.
His father never did take a bite. Look it up.

Saints good and lucky

As for the Saints...
Hard to believe the great football gods in the sky weren't pulling heavily for this crew yesterday, what with all the awfulness wrought by Katrina and all that.

The Saints had no legitimate claim to that game. By the fourth quarter Minnesota had established itself as the better team, even as it dribbled the ball all over the Super Dome carpet as if it were a hot potato. And just for good measure, Bad Brett showed up at the end and delivered them overtime wrapped in a bow.

Still, the Saints did just enough, and move on to face Manning's Colts. Frankly, the Saints looked exhausted at the end of the game this morning.
If the Super Bowl were next week, the Colts would beat them by two TDs easy.
But Sean Payton, one of the sport's great offensive architects -- even if it always does look like he just bit into a lemon -- gets two weeks to draw up a game plan, and his tired squad can properly rest for the track meet that awaits them in Miami.

Yep, New Orleans got a gift yesterday and one of its native sons, Brett Favre, was in large part responsible for it.
Bitter sweet, no?

To bed. 

(Getty Images, photo)

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