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Monday, February 04, 2008

Victory for Louisiana

Louisiana players were everywhere in one of the best Super Bowls ever Sunday.

There was New York Giants cornerback Corey Webster of St. James High and LSU getting a finger on the last desperation heave from a suddenly not-so-smooth New England quarterback Tom Brady in the final seconds.

There was Giants running back Brandon Jacobs of Assumption High in Napoleonville gaining 42 yards on 14 carries. Jacobs at one time was headed to LSU but switched to Auburn and then Southern Illinois. There was New England all-purpose back Kevin Faulk of Carencro and LSU's all-time leading rusher catching seven passes for 52 yards, fighting off a hamstring injury and helping set up what everyone thought would be the Patriots' winning touchdown for a 14-10 lead with 2:42 to play.

There was former Louisiana Tech quarterback Terry Bradshaw of Shreveport talking too much during post-game interviews when he was supposed to be getting the players to talk.

But first and foremost, there was the youngest member of the first family of the NFL pulling out the game in the final moments like Brady or Joe Montana or John Elway.

Put Eli Manning's name next to Joe Namath for greatest Super Bowl upsets as well. Put his name next to his brother Peyton's, too. Just weeks ago, the momma's boy was booed and criticized. He'd never be as good as his older brother Peyton. "Peyton, Peyton, Peyton," he must have said to himself over the years, not unlike Jan Brady (no relation to Tom).

Eli, formerly of Newman High in New Orleans and Ole Miss, engineered what will go down as one of the greatest drives in Super Bowl history. He directed the Giants 83 yards in 12 plays for the winning touchdown in a 17-14 victory, twice avoiding a rush much like his father Archie. The elder Manning faced those on almost every down as a member of the terrible New Orleans Saints in the 1970s and '80s. He was on a 1-15 team in 1980 but never asked to be traded, never moved from uptown New Orleans - not even when Anne Rice moved in nearby.

Eli rolled. Eli scrambled. Eli found David Tyree, who made perhaps the greatest catch in Super Bowl history off his head. Then Eli hit Plaxico Burress, who played for former LSU coach Nick Saban at Michigan State, for the winning 13-yard touchdown with 35 seconds to play. A Brady-like laser by Eli to Tyree from for a 5-yard touchdown put the Giants up 10-7 with 11:05 to play in the fourth quarter.

Eli took the MVP award after completing 19 of 34 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns with one interception that actually hit his receiver right in his hands but bounced away. Do not be mad at Eli for not going to LSU. He came out of Newman in 1999. LSU was horrible at the time with an offense far less sophisticated then Newman's. Ole Miss was better, and his dad went there.

There was Peyton Manning upstairs in a suite cheering his brother on. He won the MVP and the Super Bowl last season after also beating Brady the week before. LSU was horrible in 1993 when Peyton chose to go to Tennessee. So don't go there either.

Brady is suddenly 0-2 against the Brothers Manning. He looked confused throughout the game as he tried to read defenses at the line of scrimmage. He yelled at a receiver when it was Brady who poorly overthrew a pass. He looked as stiff as a fashion model trying to act. He was sacked five times and knocked around countless other times.

Move over Brady and you too Belichick. You've been caught cheating and losing. You're 18-1. That 19-0 championship parade's been canceled. The '72 Dolphins are planning another parade. A senator wants to talk to the NFL commissioner about destroying some tapes - Nixon style.

It's a Manning world. We're just living in it. The Mannings are to football what the Kennedys were to politics - minus the scandals but with the tragedy.

There was Cooper Manning, the oldest son of Archie leading Eli around the field in the crazy postgame. Cooper was the best athlete of Archie's three sons. He was an all-state receiver at Newman in 1991, catching passes from his sophomore brother Peyton. But Cooper's last game was in Tiger Stadium in the LHSAA all-star game. Soon after that, he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. A hit in a certain spot of his back in that last game would have meant he could no longer walk. He was going to go to Ole Miss. The plan was for Peyton to go there, too. But Cooper was told he could never play football again. He's successful in business today.

And there was Archie and Olivia Manning. Archie, who came home one day before his senior season at Ole Miss to find his father had shot himself, overcame that and became a true Southern legend at Ole Miss. Olivia was the homecoming queen. Archie was the second player drafted in 1971 and went to the New Orleans Saints. His team lost the 1973 season opener 62-7. If sack statistics were kept, he would likey be the most sacked quarterback in NFL history. In a dozen years in New Orleans, he had seven coaches. The Saints were 45-115 while Archie was on the team through one game of 1982. He finished his career with equally bad teams at Houston and Minnesota, which were 6-35 over that span from 1982-84. Surely, he felt cursed. And Anne Rice's house was right there.

Archie is known as the greatest NFL quarterback never to be on a winning team, which still sounds like a curse. Then his sons couldn't win the big one. Peyton couldn't beat Florida or Brady, they said. Eli was a disappointment in New York, until a few weeks ago. Archie was never on a winner in the NFL.

The curse has been lifted. Archie's NFL teams were 51-150-3 through parts of 14 seasons. Archie's sons teams are 151-93 through 14 seasons with Peyton at 112-62 in 10 and Eli at 39-31 in four. Archie never played in a playoff game. His sons have a combined 11 playoff appearances and a pair of Super Bowl wins and MVPs. And perhaps more to come.

Archie, New Orleans' favorite son, is the only human with two sons to win the Super Bowl at quarterback. New Orleans is the only city to put two quarterback brothers in the winner's circle at the Super Bowl. Louisiana is the only state to ... you get the picture.

Sounds like it's about time for a parade - first down Bourbon and then to the Manning passing academy in Thibodaux.

Happy Manning Gras.


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