I’ve had to bust out the 22 oz. Fat Tire at 11:00 PM in order to wind down. Obviously, one of the best playoff games in recent memory, if for no other reason than it had something for everyone. The Patriots came out absolutely humming in the first half. Moving the ball easily. Pressuring Manning. A very Partiot-like fumbled recovery for a touchdown when five Colts had a shot at the ball. A big pick for a touchdown to, it seemed, bury the Colts before halftime. Manning looked shaky. The Colts D suddenly both couldn’t stop the run and was giving Pats receivers big holes to operate in. Then, the big second half Colts surge, followed by an epic fourth quarter of parrying, wrapping up with a career-defining drive for Peyton, a heart-attack inducing bobble by Reggie Wayne (I was yelling “Hold on to the ball!” as soon as he turned up field. I see these things, sometimes, especially with my man Reggie.), and finally a forced throw by Mr. January that Marlon Jackson grabbed to seal the game. “Tears in their eyes, I guess….” Oh, and Belichick looked like he came close to punching a few cameramen on his way off the field. Good times.

The sad part about the Colts winning is all the Patriots haters got their wish. I’m tired of the “I’m tired of the Patriots winning all the time” crowd. They’re NOT the Yankees. The Yankees lap the field in terms of salary. The Patriots operate under the same salary constraints each of their competitors must follow. They’ve won consistently by being smarter when it comes to drafting and chasing free agents than everyone else, by having a genius (albeit an asshole genius) for a coach, getting rid of anyone who doesn’t buy into the team concept, and lucking into Drew Bledsoe taking that brutal hit back in 2001, clearing the way for Tom Brady to take the reins. So maybe all the lazy sports columnists out there were tired of them, but they fail to understand how excellent the Pats really are. They may not match-up, in terms of talent, with the Steelers of the 70s, Niners of the 80s, or Cowboys (or even Bills) of the 90s, but what they’ve done may be more impressive given the changes in the game’s financial structure.

One more thing, the Colts’ win removes my jinx on NFL teams. In all the years I lived in Kansas City, the Chiefs were either horrible or choked away high seeds in the playoffs (1993 excepted, and the whole Joe Montana “era” kind of doesn’t count.). The year we lived in the Bay Area was the one year the 80s’ Niners got destroyed in the playoffs. Since moving here, the Colts have been dazzling in the regular season, but always played like patsies when it counted. I thought it was me. It was not.

The AFC game erased the memory of a pretty crappy NFC game. I love Reggie Bush, but dude has to learn about the Woof Gods. He clearly pissed them off by taunting Urlacher on his genius TD catch-and-run, and the Woof Gods responded. Suddenly Rex Grossman looked like Troy Aikman and Drew Brees looked like, well, the Rex Grossman we’ve been kicking around the blogosphere all season. Ugly game.

Seriously, the Colts are going to have to do a monumental gag job to lose to a team QBed by Rex Grossman. He was clearly light years beyond nervous for much of Sunday’s game. Trying to call back-to-back timeouts? Being surprised when the two-minute warning hits? If dude was rattled at home, on a sloppy track, how’s he going to be after two weeks of endless questioning (and thinking), on a fast track, against the Colts? The early line of Colts -7 is just a sign of respect for the Bears’ D. I think the Bears need to score at least twice on defense and special teams to win. Or send Tanya Harding to whack Bob Sanders on his knee the night before the game so he can’t play.

Oh, and if you were, like me, warming up for football with some futbol, you saw another epic game on Fox Soccer Channel. Utter delirium in North London as Arsenal score two late goals, including one in the final minute of stoppage time, to steal a win away from EPL leaders, and practitioners of pure evil, Manchester United. The noise generated by 60,000 fans as Thierry Henry headed in the winner was astounding.

A solid day, no matter what shape of ball you kick around.