The Herald Bulletin

January 6, 2014

Another classic matchup set


The Herald Bulletin

---- — So they meet again, Andrew Luck and Tom Brady. It’s the same as last time, only different, without all the rookie-vs.-legend shadows.

That was November of 2012, this is January of 2014.

That was theater, this is survival.

Brady threw three touchdown passes and won that day. Luck threw three interceptions and lost. None of which matters now.

Brady was the icon with three rings. Luck was a remarkably accomplished young quarterback, but not yet with a centerpiece moment on the big playoff stage.

Now he has one. He seems older now, surer, on an even faster track to somewhere special.

After Saturday.

It took Peyton Manning six years to win a playoff game for the Indianapolis Colts. It took Luck two. There are a good many famous quarterbacks who never, ever experienced a moment like Luck just did.

“One for the ages,” Chuck Pagano called it. He said that twice, and no wonder.

Andrew Luck’s team has become indefatigable, unrelenting, for the moment seemingly unkillable. You’d think the Colts were Auburn.

What’s next? There is no logical reason to believe Brady and his mates won’t protect their home turf this week.

But then again, we’re talking about the Colts.

Since when is logic on the table?

Miracle makers are an especially dangerous opponent. They are true believers, supremely confident that no hard truth or cold fact or long odd can stop them. Somebody Up There likes them, and they have the fairy tale to prove it.

A few presumptions in Roger Goodell’s kingdom:

The New Orleans Saints can’t beat good teams outdoors.

There’s never any problem selling Packers tickets in Green Bay.

Nobody gets away with four turnovers in a playoff game.

All disproven, especially the last one Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium.

As for the coming weekend, since you’re probably talking about the weather today . . .

The National Karma Center has issued a severe upset warning for the following area:

The New England Patriots.

A rapidly developing front — Winter Storm Pluck and Luck — will arrive from the Midwest this weekend, with a strong sense of destiny and a quarterback with moxie the size of a mountain.

Saturday’s Great Escape has now been put on the wall of immortal NFL comebacks, hanging right next to the 1992 Buffalo Bills. And look where they ended up after coming from 32 points back in their wild card game to beat the Houston Oilers — the Super Bowl.

This one is not quite the equal of that, since Buffalo lost starting quarterback Jim Kelly during the game. To match the Bills, the Colts would have had to win behind Matt Hasselbeck.

But we quibble. Great careers have instant classic passages. Moments of absolute truth. Luck has gone from No. 1 draft choice to phenom to Saturday’s cool head in the playoff heat, even as his interception total climbed.

Tom Brady should understand the peril he is facing. It’s a newer model of him. How nice it has come to this, when both are still around; the Super Bowl king of the past, and the one who would like to be in the future.

Did someone mention the possibility of an Indianapolis letdown?

“Human nature is a tough thing to fight, but they won’t get complacent,” Pagano said. “We signed up for one thing only, and we all know what that is.”

You would think there is no way a playoff team could survive a 28-point deficit in the second half. That’s because you would think there is no way a playoff team could lose a 28-point lead in the second half.

But it happened. Now consider the next possible headline.

“Tom Brady knocked from playoffs by Colts.”

Can you imagine that? After all those years going against the Manning Colts, he has another Super Bowl chance ruined by the Luck Colts?

Inexplicable.

But then, we’re talking about the Colts.

Since when is explicable on the table?

“We hope this is not the highest of the highs,” Luck said, even as he stood on an emotional Everest.

Anything goes. Anything is possible. Dream a football dream, and Andrew Luck’s team can possibly make it come true. After Saturday.