I’ve been going back over the 2004 play by play to see if Manning was guilty of throwing garbage time TDs to pad his stats as the Pats are being accused of doing. What I found was interesting. The 2004 Colts had a terrible defense and more often than not they were trailing or in close games. The first real blowout of the season was Texas at Indy in mid November. The Colts had a huge lead but Manning stayed in the game and was throwing, but did not throw for a score.
As I remember, there was no shortage of criticism for that, but it was only the first time that season that the situation had arisen. That was the start of the run of insane blowouts that the Colts had. Manning would subsequently not play at all in the fourth quarter of the next two games (even sitting out part of the 3rd quarter against Detroit). Against Tennessee, the Colts had a 17 point lead early in the fourth when Manning threw a TD pass. He then sat out the rest of the fourth quarter. Later in the year, up 20-3 against Baltimore with little time remaining, Manning took a knee despite being in prime scoring position with a chance to tie Marino’s record. He later sat out the Denver game (excepting a quick 3 and out to start the game). In all, Manning missed 6 and a half quarters of game time during his record season.
It seems that the throwing late against Houston was a function of not having been in the position to blow out a team often that season. It did occur, however, but seems to have been immediately corrected.
Perhaps we should give the benefit of the doubt to the Patriots. Perhaps they simply were unused to blowing out teams, and throwing wildly around the field was a function of that. Should they return to a more appropriate style of football, all should be forgiven. What is strange is the impassioned defense of this insane practice by the Pats fans. It really doesn’t make any sense. Dungy was killed by the local media and Colts fans for letting Manning play while sporting a huge lead, even though no points were scored. The practice immediately ceased. Why do Pats fans insist on defending this nonsense?