History was made today in the NFL when Lovie Smith became the first African American head coach to guide his team into the Super Bowl. Hours later, Smith’s former mentor and friend Tony Dungy guided his Indianapolis Colts past Bill Belichick’s Patriots to become the second African American coach to guide his team into the Super Bowl. Tony Dungy isn’t the only Colt to get the proverbial monkey off his back with the win. Peyton Manning displayed a type of poise today that I’d never seen in him before.

Peyton Manning didn’t just show poise in a tightly fought game. Peyton Manning showed poise in completing the biggest comeback victory in NFL championship game history. Early on, Manning and the Colts were missing on at least four of their eight cylinders. When Logan Mankins recovered a botched handoff between Tom Brady and Laurence Mauroney for a Patriot touchdown, announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms wondered aloud if this wasn’t more proof that this wouldn’t be Manning’s day.

When Asante Samuel intercepted Manning’s pass and returned it for a touchdown, the Patriot lead was 21-3 with precious few minutes left in the first half. If ever there was a time when you wondered whether Manning would stumble, this was that moment. He didn’t stumble. Instead, he led his team to a field goal just before halftime. Then he guided the Colts to an second half-opening touchdown drive, their first touchdown since the Chiefs playoff game.

After the Colts defense stopped Brady’s bunch, Manning led the Colts on another impressive march, this time capping it off with a 1 yard touchdown pass to defensive lineman Dan Klecko. Klecko was in as a blocker. Instead, he caught the pass on a tackle eligible. Manning hit Marvin Harrison for the dramatic two point conversion.

Tom Brady and company weren’t going to go silently into that good night, at least not without a knuckle-busting fight first. Ellis Hobbs took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to the Colts 21 yard line. Tom Brady capped the drive with a 6 yard TD pass to Jabar Gaffney, making it 28-21 Patriots.

The Colts then retied the game when center Jeff Saturday recovered running back Dominic Rhodes’ fumble in the end zone, making him the third lineman to score in the game. (Who’s writing this script? Simply unbelievable!!!)

When rookie Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 43-yard field goal, the Patriots led 34-31 and the clock showed just 3:49 left. Manning mixed in a dramatic 52 yard pass play to tight end Dallas Clark with some physical running plays. With the Patriots’ defense reeling, rookie running back Joseph Addai took in the game-winning touchdown with exactly 1 minute left on the clock.

Tom Brady’s last chance at a dramatic comeback victory ended when cornerback Marlin Jackson intercepted Brady’s pass. Jackson returned in a couple yards, then fell to the ground. With the Patriots out of timeouts, Manning took a knee and history was written.

I’m happiest for Tony Dungy, who has strong Minnesota ties, first as the University of Minnesota starting quarterback, then as Denny Green’s first defensive coordinator with the Vikings. If Tony Dungy isn’t the classiest sports figure in Minnesota history, then he’s at least within whispering distance of it. Simply put, Tony Dungy lives his Christian faith for all the world to see in a humble, dignified manner. If you can’t cheer for a man like that, then you’re hopeless.

Congratulations, Tony and Peyton. You’ve earned it. I hope you win it all.

UPDATE: Follow this link to Captain Ed’s post on the game.

Ed, I agree. Colts by 7.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

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