published Monday, January 25th, 2010

Wiedmer: Super Bowl is Archie's worst nightmare

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    Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre (4) is hit by New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita (55) and Anthony Hargrove during the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Unless you're Archie Manning, the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts winning their way to Super Bowl XLIV figures to be a wonderful pairing.

But if you're Archie, the most popular Saint ever but also the father of Colts QB Peyton Manning, you've got to ask yourself, "Why?"

Why, WHY, W-H-Y?

No Saints fan, particularly not Manning, should have to shed his lifelong allegiance to the NFL's most lovable losers because of family.

Archie should be there in Miami on Feb. 6 cheering on the team often known as the Ain'ts during his time there, finally able to laugh about the fans who sometimes wore paper bags over their heads to hide their disappointment and disgust.

And the great patriarch of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Peyton and Eli will no doubt swell with a good deal of pride over the Saints finally reaching the NFL's big game after spending all 43 years of their existence in the league's championship desert.

But like any father he'll ultimately pull for his son and against his team and his home, however unfair it may seem for Archie to have to make that choice.

But this pairing is exceedingly fair. Until the final three weeks of the regular season, the Colts and Saints were clearly the two best teams in the NFL, both of them standing unbeaten at that point within their respective conferences.

But New Orleans' 13-0 mark became 13-3 by season's end. Then the Colts tanked their 15th game against the New York Jets, following that with a meaningless loss at Buffalo to finish 14-2.

So much for how you finish the regular season having a profound impact on the postseason.

Naturally, there will be much discussion about how the Saints outlasted the Minnesota Vikings in overtime Sunday night, their 31-28 victory greatly aided by Brett Favre's interception near the close of regulation.

Favre's become like a lot of Saturday Night Live episodes -- he starts a lot stronger than he finishes. His last three playoff appearances have ended with interceptions, those turnovers almost entirely his fault.

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    Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) i seen on the field during the celebration after the Colts' 30-17 win over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship NFL football game Sunday, Jan 24, 2010, in Indianapolis.The Colts advance to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

He may still be the most entertaining QB in the game not named Peyton, but at 40, you wonder how many more of these painful finishes either he or his fans can take.

Nevertheless, the biggest problem for the Super Bowl may be matching the excitement of the NFC championship game. It wasn't necessarily perfectly played, but these were two perfectly matched teams, with high-wire offenses, underrated defenses and a lot of past baggage to shake.

But what this will ensure is a game that could have historical implications if Manning leads the Colts to their second Super Bowl crown in four years.

Already regarded as one of the six or seven best QBs to ever play the game, Perfect Peyton can move into the top three or four -- just behind Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, John Elway and, possibly Tom Brady -- to ever play with a second Super Bowl crown. And unlike Montana and Brady, he's done it with a less than memorable supporting cast.

As for Favre, he'll have no one to blame but himself if his legacy is less than he'd like. His last pass as a Packer was an interception in overtime against the New York Giants in the 2007 NFC title game. He threw one of the worst playoff interceptions ever against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Packers' last playoff appearance before that one.

But Sunday against the Saints may have been the worst, since his latest -- and possibly the final interception of his remarkable career -- robbed the Vikings of a field goal opportunity to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1977.

So now the Vikings may well find themselves waiting on Favre to either retire or return in much the same way the Green Bay Packers often did.

And Peyton will face the team he cheered for as a child.

For everyone but Archie, it should be a blast.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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