As I sit here watching hours of Super Bowl post-game coverage, basking in the glory of the Saints win, I thought I'd write some thoughts on the game that not a lot of people are talking about.
First of all, Sean Payton's gutsy decision to onside kick at the beginning of the second half may have been the play of the game -- that sentiment is inarguable. But what no one in mainstream media is talking about is how the numbers show that if the Saints try that 10 times in that exact situation they would actually recover the ball six times -- more than half of the time. The analysis is here if you don't believe me. I just think it is important to highlight how deficient mainstream media is in giving fans all the facts. We can only hear plaudits of risky and gutsy so many times before it would be nice to have some hard facts provide color on the situation.
Jim Caldwell was over his head in this game. The Caldwell story is a nice one but the reality is that Peyton Manning was the reason that this team almost went undefeated -- Caldwell was merely a caretaker. While Sean Payton was making the right call going for it on 4th down, trying onside kicks, and making the right challenges, poor Caldwell was making his 42 year old kicker try a 51 yard FG, mismanaging timeouts and playing things way to close to the vest when he should have been going for the jugular (at the end of the 1st half).
What's interesting about Payton's decision to go for it on 4th and Goal at the two yard line is how he likely knew things would play out if he didn't get the touchdown. Payton knew that by giving the Colts the ball at their own one yard line, he was essentially taking the ball out of Manning's hands. He knew that there was no way that conservative Caldwell would actually let Manning throw the ball in that situation so essentially he was ensuring that at worst he would go into the locker room down seven points. If he kicks that field goal and then kicks off, there's a good chance Manning has a chance to get another TD before the end of the half -- the worst case scenario. Poor Caldwell played right into Payton's hands.
Garret Hartley was my MVP. Yes I know Brees was really the MVP and as I mentioned before the game he may even be better than Manning. But Hartley's three 40+ FG's were a Super Bowl first and without them the Saints may have not been in a position for Brees' heroics. Hartley's kick in OT against the Vikings was true and his three kicks in the Super Bowl were some of the most no doubt, clutch kicks I have ever seen. Hartley was amazing.
Finally, as I listen to my nemesis Tom Jackson talk about Sean Payton's onside kick decision, I can't help but wonder what he'd be saying if that were the Patriots and Bill Belichick trying that onside kick. Even worse, I can't imagine what he would have said if it had been unsuccessful. Again, it would be nice if someone on that ESPN set had something intelligent to say about the decision rather than commenting on its result.
Nevertheless, a great game, one where at least the good guys or rather the smart guys won.