Peyton Manning vs. Drew Brees. Dwight Freeney’s ankle. The Saints first Super Bowl appearance. Two weeks of storylines, subplots, pundits and predictions came down to an onside kick and an untimely interception. New Orleans came into Super Bowl 44 loose and hungry, ultimately prevailing over the favored Indianapolis Colts 31-17.
The Colts offense got off to a quick 10-0 first quarter lead. The Saints initially seemed somewhat intimidated, but, regained composure in the second quarter. New Orleans’ offense launched several time-consuming drives, effectively keeping Peyton Manning on the sideline for the majority of the second quarter. With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, momentum shifted to the Colts with their defense’s huge goal-line stand. The Colts offense, however, was not able to convert the momentum into points before halftime. Score at the half: Colts 10, Saints 6.
Some serious game-altering adjustments were obviously made in the Saints locker room during the break because New Orleans started the second half with one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history. Sean Payton called an onside kick to open the half. No one, including the Colts, saw the play coming. What a phenomenal call! Games are often lost because of poor special teams play. Every player and coach should know that anytime a kickoff occurs, the possibility of an onside kick looms. Generally speaking, head coaches who consistently “play it safe/play not to lose” won’t call for an onside kick unless it’s crunch time and the game is on the line. New Orleans had no intention of playing it safe because they came to win. The Saints’ huge gamble caught Indianapolis totally unprepared and paid off in spades for New Orleans. Momentum shifted to the Saints because they kept Manning off the field again.
The Colts defense never really made Super Bowl 44 MVP Drew Brees feel uncomfortable in the pocket, except when Dwight Freeney pulled Brees down for a sack. Without substantial pressure and a quick release, the potent Saints offense was able to pick apart the Colts defense. However, Manning was able to keep one point head of Brees into the fourth quarter. Indianapolis’ offense was moving freely down the field until the Colts failed on a third down conversion. At that point, the Colts brought out Matt Stover for an ill-advised 51 yard field goal attempt. The kick was wide left and was on the fringe of Stover’s range. The missed field goal was key because the Colts came away with no points and gave Brees shorter field to work with. Soon after, Brees hit Jeremy Shockey for a touchdown. The Saints made the two-point conversion, took the lead, and never looked back.
Manning and the Colts roared back, marching into Saints territory. The Colts’ rhythm was interrupted by an injury to Saints’ DL Anthony Hargrove. On the very next play Saints’ CB Tracy Porter’s Pick 6 of Manning was checkmate…game over! Manning still attempted to lead his team back, but, time and several unsuccessful tries to get into the end zone sealed the Lombardi Trophy for the New Orleans Saints.
Rest assured, Saints fans won’t wear brown paper bags anytime soon. Congratulations to the Saints, the City of New Orleans and all the Saints fans!