Grading the Colts in their 31-17 loss to the Saints on Sunday in Miami in Super Bowl XLIV ...
Quarterbacks: The discussion before Sunday evening was that if Peyton Manning won this one, he would be considered among the greatest of all time. So, can one throw, one pass, change the perception of Manning completely? Manning's fourth-quarter interception was as bad a decision and throw as has ever been made in the Super Bowl. Manning went from Joe Montana to Kerry Collins in terms of a Super Bowl performance, just like that. On an otherwise smart and efficient day against a very good defense, one throw changed everything. Grade: B
Running backs: The Colts had a good thing going with Joseph Addai through two-plus quarters. It could be argued that they got away from their best weapon on this night far too soon. Addai had 77 yards rushing on 13 carries and added 58 yards receiving. It wasn't execution that was the problem, but play-calling. If you want to second guess coaching and Manning's pre-snap calls, question getting away from the ground game. Grade: A-
Receivers:Reggie Wayne clearly was not himself. Pierre Garcon caught the first touchdown of the game and finished with 66 yards receiving, but faded in the second half. Dallas Clark was the most effective weapon. Finding receivers was not a problem. Making enough plays to put points on the board was where the Colts fell short. Grade: C
Offensive line: The Saints never laid a finger on Peyton Manning. The Colts also rushed for 5.2 yards per-carry, controlled the ball and wracked up 432 yards of offense. The Colts O-line didn't go home with a Super Bowl title, but it did its job. Grade: A-
Defensive line:Dwight Freeney never was quite himself, but finished with a sack, a quarterback hit and garnered the attention of the Saints on every snap. The Colts' D-line also limited the Saints run game to 2.8 yards per rush, but could not generate any pressure on Drew Brees, which ultimately was to their demise. Grade: C-
Linebackers:Gary Brackett was all over the field from the opening whistle. However, making tackles (a team-high 12) is only part of the linebackers' job. Too many short passes turned into first downs. Too often, the tight ends went uncovered or could not be covered -- including on Jeremy Shockey's crucial late touchdown. Outside of Bracket, the Colts linebackers failed miserably. Grade: D
Defensive backs: As a group, they were exceptional in run support and made big play after big play. Against the pass, too many penalties, breakdowns and simple missed plays ultimately led to the loss. Jacob Lacey found himself in the middle of a crucial two-point conversion by the Saints and could not break up the play. Brees consistently exploited soft coverage. Grade: C
Special Teams: Want to know why the Colts lost this one? Look no further than the special teams. The offense was good enough. The defense was good enough. The special teams, however, was just this side of atrocious. The Colts gave up too many yards on kick coverage, but that was the least of their troubles. Matt Stover missed an early 51-yarder that might have changed the complexion of the game. And then there was the missed cover on the second-half onside kick by Hank Baskett. Grade: D
Coaching: The gutsy Saints' onside kick was not just a lucky guess. The Colts were unprepared. Make no mistake: Sean Payton and special teams coaches pored over video, breaking it all down and thinking about just the right time to spring the onside kick. On top of that, the Saints clearly made the best halftime adjustments. The Colts never found a way to break big plays. The Colts were, frankly, badly out-coached. Grade: C-
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