The fact is that with the arm and the receivers he has, Manning needn't ever try to outguess any defense. He needn't ever call audibles. He needn't ever use any of his time-wasting sprint-out stretch plays. He needn't ever line up in the shotgun formation, which takes away both his indispensable quick pass and much of the James running threat.
The five Colt receivers who play regularly, including James, are among the finest in football, and on any play, nearly always, one of them will come open an instant after the snap. They and their passer are so talented that all Manning need do, all day, is drop back, turn, and find the open man.
Steelers Can Win with Patriots' Offense
THE STEELERS' title-caliber resources are different, but clearly more complete, with bundles of talent on defense as well as offense. This year, in fact, the Steelers could well displace New England with one simple change of procedure. All they have to do is throw out their run-based offense and install New England's pass-based offense, which their coaches could master overnight because it's all laid out in the Patriots' 2004 game tapes.
The first step for Pittsburgh is to realize that in the present passing era, a great defensive team with a run-based offense has no chance to win championship games regardless of how successful it might be in regular-season games. The second step is putting the offense in the hands of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
In 2004, Roethlisberger had an exceptional rookie season, showing the pass-play presence and competence of a veteran NFL winner. His critics obviously didn't notice how badly he was handicapped by the Steelers' out-of-date offensive strategy. From one week to the next, he was only called on to pass when his opponents anticipated pass — the hard way for any passer to compete.
Roethlisberger's problems were reminiscent of, indeed identical to, the problems that Hall of Famer John Elway had on so many old-fashioned losing teams before Denver finally brought in a modern passing coach.
Can Eagles Beat Belichick, Brady Both?
THE EAGLES, the most successful of today's West Coast pro clubs, can be a Super Bowl team again, with a better chance to win this time than last time, if Terrell and Correll play the season injury-free. That's Terrell Owens, the best receiver in the country, and Correll Buckhalter, the best running back in Pennsylvania.
Off-season handicappers speculate that New England and Philadelphia seem headed for another Super Bowl in large part because Buckhalter, who missed 2004 with injuries, has shown the talent to make the kind of contribution to the Eagles that Corey Dillon made to the Patriots.
With Owens, Buckhalter and Donovan McNabb at their peak and Andy Reid directing, the Eagles seem powerful enough to catch Belichick in a Super Bowl rematch. Whether they can also catch Brady is what's in some doubt.
The trouble with playing New England is that there are two great artists to beat. No other football team makes that kind of big trouble. For instance, in the most recent Super Bowl, the Eagles held Belichick's defense to a draw for most of an eventful evening but lost to Brady's fourth-quarter passing show.
The Patriots have been winning that way throughout the century, beginning in Super Bowl XXXVI, when the Rams tied Belichick in the last five minutes, 17-17, but lost to Brady's five perfect passes setting up the deciding field goal at the wire. Five perfect ones in football's toughest 90 seconds. That was awesome. It convinced an old conservative, Belichick, to change his whole life and, as a passing coach, start dominating the NFL.