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Austin Collie could play a key role for Colts

No matter how you cut it, Austin Collie is going to have an impact on today's Super Bowl in Miami.

The former BYU receiver has been handed a fairly decent chunk of the offense for Indianapolis, a script that fits alongside veteran stars Reggie Wayne, tight end Dallas Clark and Pierre Garcon.

Collie could get key passes thrown his way and make some big plays. Or he could be another part of the Colts' table dressing in a loss, and not be a factor. His impact could then be that he didn't have any.

I think it will be the other way.

Wayne came up hurting in practice on Friday and the three-time All Pro left practice 20 minutes early with an aggravated soft tissue issue below his kneecap. The Colts say Wayne will play today against the Saints. But if he doesn't, or he is limited, Collie could find a bigger piece in Peyton Manning's game plan.

Collie is part of a Manning show that's fun to watch. Manning audibles in and out of sets like a choir director, pushing the play clock down to seconds while forcing a defense to guess until the snap.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma told the media he knows a chess game is coming with Manning's pre-snap artistry. But then, he executes better than any in today's game.

"He is either making a check or making a dummy check," Vilma, an eight-year pro, said in an Associated Press story. "He may be doing a little bit of listening, trying to hear what I'm saying (to my teammates).

"It's about 50-50 with people telling me whether it's good or bad to play that game (with him). I don't know if I want to go back and forth with him."

Vilma said Manning will definitely win if he takes the play clock under five seconds before settling on his plan of attack.

"I don't have time to switch (the defense) back in those four seconds or less," he said. "I have to get everything I need out to the (cornerbacks)."

That's the beauty of this Colt team and Manning's sensational play with its reins in his hands. He has an uncanny ability to set up defenses with timing that looks like something from an X-Box video game.

We saw this in the AFC playoffs, in a win over the Ravens where Manning was deliberate, patient, very controlled and took what the defense gave him.

It was a prototype job of carving up one of the best defenses in the league.

Then, against the Jets in the AFC championship game, we saw the opposite and Collie became a huge part of a completely different tact by Manning.

Trailing the Jets late in the second quarter 17-6, the Colts appeared doomed. Nothing was working, Manning got sacked hard early and was pressured, and Indy's offense simply chugged to a halt.

With 2:13 left in the half, the Colts recalibrated their blocking schemes, adjusted routes, became more aggressive and attack-minded and exclusively went to another choice — Collie.

Manning used Collie exclusively in a four-play, 80-yard scoring drive in 58 seconds, finding Collie for a 17-yard touchdown. That closed the gap to 17-13 at intermission, and the game was never the same. The Colts registered a convincing 30-17 victory and started packing for Miami.

"It's not as easy as everyone thinks," Collie said. "I'm still making mistakes and there are still things I need to learn. I think it will be a couple of years before I get this offense down pat."

If Manning, Collie and Company are to deliver a Super Bowl victory today, it might be in a shootout because the Saints' spread offense is so explosive. That would make for a truly super game for viewers.

In a sentimental setting that has many people pulling for New Orleans because of the natural tragedies that have plagued the city, it almost seems destined the Saints will deliver and a city can find something to celebrate — a first-ever Super Bowl victory.

But Manning certainly has something to say in this deal. And Collie should be part of the dialog.

Super Bowl Sunday

Colts vs. Saints

Time: Today, 4:25 p.m.

Location: Miami

TV: CBS

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com