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Colts vs Patriots 2009: Pass the smelling salts - to Belichick, too

Over an eight-year rivalry, Colts vs Patriots 2009 is the most outlandish. Credit a moment of madness by Belichick.

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Option 2: I can go for it. I can try to keep the ball out of the hands of Manning, who has stomped on my young-and-tiring defense in the fourth quarter with hob-nailed boots. I can put the ball in the hands of my best player, quarterback Tom Brady, and trust him to win the game for me.

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I am Bill Belichick. I choose Option 2.

Patriots gain one yard. Colts' ball.

Fifty-five seconds later Wayne's languid form – never hurried, ever graceful – falls to the turf with bedlam cradled in his taut fingertips.

Yes, Mr. Buck: "I don't believe what I just saw."

The team of mathematicians that broke the Enigma code would need a month simply to divine from the game film exactly how the Colts won. How the Patriots lost. Both. Heaven help the analysts at ESPN's "NFL Gameday."

Sebastian Junger authored "The Perfect Storm." Sunday, Manning and Belichick co-authored "The Perfect Comeback."

At 31-14 Patriots, with 14:18 remaining, the scenarios by which the Colts could win the game would not have filled a 3- by 5-inch card.

The Colts offense had not done much of anything against the Patriots defense for three quarters. The Patriots offense had done pretty much what it wished against the Colts defense for three quarters – failing only through complicity.

In the fourth quarter, Manning threw a pass to ... absolutely no one. The Patriots duly intercepted. Rookie Colts wide receiver Austin Collie had the misfortune of having a long third-quarter pass hit him directly on the hands (which he duly dropped). The Colts other rookie receiver, Pierre Garçon, also failed to reel in a bomb that hit him in the hands.

Meanwhile, the Patriots moved at will, only to give up two turnovers in the Colt end zone – an interception and a fumble.

Then, 42 seconds into the fourth quarter, the inscrutable hand of football history shook Lucas Oil Stadium like a giant snow globe, and everything changed.

Pierre Garçon's got gecko hands hauling in an inch-perfect Manning bomb. Austin Collie drew a crucial pass interference call. And Belichick's moment of madness left Manning with only 29 yards to pay dirt.

The Patriots will hardly leave this game fearing the Colts. If they must come back through Indianapolis in the playoffs to make it to the Super Bowl – as now looks likely – they will have no fear.

On this evidence, though, no one would object to a final installment of the Rivalry of the Decade.


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