Co-MVPs compete, but neither wins out

This past week’s outcomes of NFL matchups came with some pretty hefty declarations. But amidst all the crystal balls, the biggest matchup of the night made no statements.

But before we get to the main event, let’s begin with a few “declarations.” In a stunning turn of events, daaa Bears still aren’t expected to be a real contender this year — especially with safety and 95 yard touchdown hero Mike Brown recently taken out of the mix with a torn Achilles. But at least for some, Sunday’s game continued to prove that Brett “Farvera” Favre, much like the 41-year-old version of MJ we suffered through, or Patrick Ewing, is still great but doesn’t possess that certain je ne sais quoi that almost guarantees his team a victory when he takes the field (cough cough, he’s no Tom Brady).

Speaking of Brady, the Patriots’ win over Emmitt “woah, did you know the all-time leading rusher is playing in this game?” Smith and the Arizona Cardinals only helped to further establish New England as the dynasty many of us in the know suspected it would turn into (shock me, shock me, shock me). Also, there are surely a few Eagles fans who have already begun planning the massive coup they’ll stage in Jacksonville’s Alltel Stadium after Monday night’s impressive performance, which has many thinking this will be “the year” for them to upstage the Patriots and win a Super Bowl with McNabb at the helm. (I’m laughing, sorry, laughing, still laughing — OK, I’m back). It’s not that I have anything against the image of McNabb holding a Superbowl MVP trophy because after Monday night, few things would make me happier (like say, Tom Brady holding one for the THIRD time — big grin). It’s just that, from 21 years of experience as a Red Sox fan, really Philly, give it up! Trust me, it’s not worth the heartache.

But that’s enough of me ranting about teams just so I have an excuse to talk about the Pats who, incidentally, I probably just jinxed for the next decade. For me, Sunday’s most intriguing matchup was the Colts’ MVP Peyton Manning taking on, lo and behold — another MVP — Tennessee’s Steve McNair Titans. Here were the two co-MVPs of 2004 squaring off. In a sport where there are no ties, the question lingered, who was the best?

On the one side stood McNair, surely out to avenge the nod Manning got over him for the 2004 Pro Bowl. On the opposite side, there were the Colts, who after a demoralizing first game loss to the Patriots, were dead set on not going 0-2 to start out their season. On each side was one of the previous season’s co-MVPs. To summarize, the outcome of this game held A LOT in the balance; whoever’s team walked away victorious would be proclaimed the TRUE MVP, and the defeated would walk away leaving some fans to wonder if he were overrated — except that’s not what happened at all.

After what was mostly a close game, the Colts walked away the victors with a 31-17 victory and an easier to swallow 1-1 record. However, Manning did not walk away the victor in the battle of the MVPs. In a game that Edgerrin James mostly carried, literally, McNair was the only quarterback who seemed to matter much to his team at crucial moments — and even that wasn’t much. When it came down to it, “the Edge” was the real MVP of this game.

While Manning had the ball for much of the first half, he had some crucial blunders in key moments that, had McNair not fallen apart as much and James not stepped it up, the Colts could have very well been looking at an 0-2 record for the season. During Indianapolis’ first drive, Manning threw two incomplete passes on second and third down at Tennessee’s 10-yard line. Again, later in the second quarter, Manning proved useless at critical moments when he failed to convert on third and three at Tennessee’s 39-yard line, leaving no choice but to punt.

It became clear Manning was no longer the Colts’ “Edge” (sorry, couldn’t resist) when James and the Colts defense began to make all the key plays leading to Indianapolis’ eventual win. In the middle of the fourth quarter, after a series of incomplete passes and an early sack that left the Colts 10 yards back, Edgerrin capitalized on one of Manning’s few trademark throws of the day and in three plays brought the ball in from Tennessee’s 20 for a go-ahead touchdown.

Meanwhile, McNair’s rushing heroics were quickly snuffed out in the fourth quarter as the Colts’ defense put the pressure on McNair, causing a series of incomplete passes and a sack during game-deciding drives — something Manning could relate to for the day as he watched McNair from the sidelines.

Aside from the sacks, a plethora of incomplete passes on second and third downs inside the 40, and McNair’s interception, both MVPs played well above average by most standards — just not MVP standards. Sure, McNair threw for 273 yards and Manning for 254, but McNair’s Titans rolled over in the fourth quarter while Manning was hardly a factor in the plays that drove the Colts past the Titans. Add it all up and you’re left with two disappointing performances by two top-notch quarterbacks who for some reason on Sunday didn’t have that je ne sais quoi.

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