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Go, Broncos!

Posted by Richard on January 15, 2006

Last night’s Broncos-Patriots game was a bit ugly at times, but Denver’s defense and special teams more than made up for a lackluster offense. Who would have believed that the defending Super Bowl champs, led by the quarterback who’d never lost a playoff game, would turn the ball over five times?

So Denver got its first playoff victory since Elway retired. Next — the winner of the Colts-Steelers game. As a Tennessee alumnus, I’m normally a Peyton Manning fan, but… if the Colts win (as everyone expects), Denver has to go to Indy next weekend; if the Steelers win, they come to Denver.

So I’m cheering on the Steelers right now, and so far it’s working. After an embarrassing 25-yard first quarter in which they couldn’t do anything right, the Colts put together a 9-minute drive in the second — and had to settle for a field goal. Score at the half: Steelers 14, Colts 3.

Wow, maybe Denver will be playing at home next week after all! Of course, Roethlisberger and the Steelers sliced through the Colts defense so effortlessly on their first couple of possessions that they took the crowd right out of the game — if they can do the same to the Broncos here, there goes the home field advantage.

But ask any Denver fan — or player — whether they’d rather play in Indy or Denver next week, and I think you’ll get the same answer. Go, Steelers! (This cheer is valid for today only.)

UPDATE: Steelers win, 21-18. So they’ll play Denver in Denver to determine who gets the honor of beating the NFC champ in Super Bowl XL.

What a game it was. People who dismiss football as just stupid, mindless physical violence just don’t get it. At its best –and this was — a football game embodies human drama on many levels. If you saw it, you know what I mean. 

For three quarters, Peyton Manning — the best quarterback playing today — looked completely ineffectual and was totally frustrated. The Colts trailed 21-3 and couldn’t seem to do anything right. It was 4th and 2, and Coach Tony Dungy waved in the punting team. Manning set his jaw and waved them back. He wouldn’t leave the field.

Dungy looked at him for a moment, and then gave in with a gesture that seemed to say, "OK, it’s on you." A spark of electricity ran through the crowd, which had been lifeless since the first quarter. The Colts made the first down. The crowd went crazy. The team suddenly looked energized and alive. A moment later, Manning threw a 50-yard touchdown pass, and the place went berserk. It was a ball game again.

Now, that was something, but that was just the beginning of the human drama. I’d guess that Steelers coach Bill Cowher has been called many things in his career, and "daring" was never one of them. But the electricity sparked by Manning’s demonstration of resolve and courage touched even the cautious, conservative Cowher. The Steelers’ drive stalled, and they faced 4th and inches on their own 36 yard line. Cowher went for it.

Folks, the sound that reverberated through the stadium was the fabric of the universe being rent. The Steelers were sitting on an 11-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, and they were on their own 36. Not the Colts’ 36, their own. And Cowher went for it on 4th down. Inconceivable.

Damned if they didn’t make it. And damned if they didn’t face another 4th down later in the same drive, go for it again, and make it again.

And damned if the game didn’t get even more exciting from there. And go right down to the wire.

No, this wasn’t just stupid, mindless physical violence. This was the finest kind of human drama — coaches, players, and even fans rising to the occasion and displaying the best of what makes us human.

It was courage and frustration, joy and devastation — and one shock, surprise, and edge-of-the-seat moment after another. One helluva football game.

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