The Indianapolis Colts' inability to do the little things right Sunday left all of them empty-handed.
"I can't say we ever saw that coming at all," Colts center Jeff Saturday said. "They just outplayed us."
It was the first time all season that they could definitively say that. After all, this was the can't-miss Colts.
After breaking the NFL record with 23 consecutive regular-season wins, setting the league record for most victories in a decade (115) and giving up a shot at a perfect season, Indianapolis had only one goal: earning another ring.
"He made a great play, he just made a great play, that's all I can say," Manning said.
To be denied
None of it went according to the plan.
"What we did do well was take away the big plays," defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "What we didn't do well was wrapping up."
One of the decisive miscues came on special teams.
Hank Baskett had a chance to make the Saints pay when they opened the second half with a surprise onside kick, trailing 10-6. The little-used receiver got his hands on the ball, but he let it bounce away, and New Orleans recovered to set up a TD drive.
Baskett's wife, reality television star Kendra Wilkinson, was so upset that she walked to the back of her suite. Baskett didn't take questions after the game. Teammates, however, called it the turning point.
"As the special teams captain, I felt like we didn't do the little things right," safety Melvin Bullitt said. "If we do, we're getting the ball there at the (Saints') 40, and it might have been a totally different game."
After New Orleans kicked its first field goal early in the second quarter, Garcon dropped a third-down pass that hit him in the shoulder. Indy ran only six plays in the period and didn't pick up a first down.
There was more of the same in the second half.
Collie was stopped for a 3-yard loss on second-and-8, a play that Manning bemoaned could have have gone for a first down had the rookie turned upfield. Manning came right back to Collie, who couldn't catch a third-down pass.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press