Even as former Saints cornerback Tracy Porter was running to the end zone with the championship-clinching interception in Super Bowl XLIV, the blame already was landing on Colts receiver Reggie Wayne for failing to be in position to catch the ball. Which means, naturally, that the game-deciding blunder wasn’t the fault of quarterback Peyton Manning.
Wayne, the experts said, failed to “cross the face” of Porter, a football-guy term that means what it implies. Wayne needed to fight through Porter to be where Wayne needed to be when the ball arrived. Appearing on NFL Network’s Game Day Morning, Wayne suggested that none of that mattered because Porter saw the play coming.
Which makes it Manning’s fault.
“Let me tell you something about that,” Wayne said. “We ran that play about four times that game. He was waiting on it. He was waiting on it. He sat on it. He sat on it and he waited. He broke before I did. I didn’t help, I slipped a little bit. But he got there before I did. If I would have run the perfect route, I think he still would have got there before me.”
NFL Network’s Deion Sanders seemed to agree with Wayne, saying the Porter was sitting “in that rocking chair” waiting for the throw.
It meshes with what Porter said immediately after the game: “We knew that on third and short they stack, and they like the outside release for the slant. It was great film study by me, a great jump and a great play.”
Porter later elaborated in an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show regarding what Porter saw and why he broke on the ball.
“We went to man-to-man coverage, and the formation that the Colts came out in is one that we’ve been studying the majority of the week,” Porter said. “With the inverted split end, [Austin] Collie we knew was going to motion down and they were going to run a stick route. The point guy, Reggie Wayne, was in the slot, and he was going to try to wide the part and out-leverage the corner and cut back across his face.
“Once I saw Collie motion in, I was like, ‘OK, here comes the stick route,’ and once I saw him try to wide the part, I just stepped inside and when he went to make the break to come back in I was already in front of him and I picked the ball off.”
Other scapegoats emerged, from the offensive line to running back Mike Hart. The guy who threw the pass — and who ran the offense with the ability at the line of scrimmage to make whatever adjustments he thought he needed to make — never was blamed for calling the play (or allowing the play to remain the call) and making the throw.
Why are we mentioning it now? First, Wayne said what he said while on NFL Network this morning. Second, it’s fair to consider Manning’s role in the event things go off the rails on Sunday, especially since the guys who’ll be working the game for CBS have a reputation for treating Peyton with kid gloves.