Despite fears of Manning overload being confirmed during the pre-game show, Super Bowl XLIV was still on of one of the more anticipated games in recent years. For the first time since the second Cowboys-Bills “showdown,” the top two seeds from each conference made it through their conferences unscathed. With two powerful offenses taking the field in the warm comforts of Miami, offense was assumed to be the showcase.
Only one team came out firing however. Following a weak Saints three and out on the first drive, Peyton Manning came out in beast mode, zinging passes into covered receivers and driving the Colts all over the field. Meanwhile, Saints receivers were having balls bounce off their face. The result: a quick 10-0 Colts lead and fears from haters everywhere that we were in for an Indy blowout.
But the Saints and Coach Sean Payton didn’t panic, sticking to their plan of frustrating the Colts deep with Cover 2 and taking what the Indy defense gave them. Brees quickly shed any pre-game jitters and the Saints own offense got into gear. But the Colts still seemed to have the upper hand, stoning Mike Bell on 4th and goal from the one with two minutes left. This was a bad coaching decision, in my opinion you always take the points in the first three quarters, even if driving to the one is frustrating as shit. But luckily for Payton, his team bailed him out, forcing a punt and driving to tack on a field goal to close the score to 10-6.
Colts fans can’t have felt good only being up four at that point, and things went from bad to worse when Payton teabagged their collective faces with his elephant nuts by calling for an onside kick to start the second half. This time the Saints capitalized, as Thomas juked about four Colts out of their socks on a TD screen pass.
Peyton, of course, wasn’t done. The highlight of this drive, and maybe of the Super Bowl was an unbelievable roll out pass to Dallas Clark, lofted perfectly into quintuple coverage. As one of the bigger Brady stans on the planet, I’ll admit no one else could have made that throw. And as an avid Colts detractor, I assume that we were going to see the same thing we had all year—the Colts putting away teams in the second half.
But a key coaching decision cost the Colts big: the decision to kick a 51 yard field goal with NFL senior citizen Matt Stover as your kicker. Caldwell showed way too much confidence in his defense, which had stopped generating any pressure and was allowing Brees to sit back and find the open man all day long. Given a short field, Brees looked cool as a cucumber finding Bush, Colston and Shockey on his way to giving the Saints a fourth quarter lead. A little help from the refs on the two-point conversion didn’t hurt either.
With the Saints up 24-17, there was plenty of time for Peyton to heroically lead them to a tie, or even a win. But faced with the pressure of Super Bowl defeat, his once crisp throws started getting a little of that New Orleans wobble wobble. The opportunistic Saints D took advantage. Tracy Porter stepped in front of a Wayne in-route, headed to the house and sealed the deal for New Orleans.
In the aftermath, the NFL continued its recent tradition of good to excellent Super Bowls. Both teams played at a very high level and, Jim Caldwell aside, no one really came away looking bad. While it’s definitely true that Peyton came up small in the fourth, he did keep the Colts in control of the game for the first half. In the end, the Saints were just too damn good on all sides of the ball—the best team did win. Congratulations to New Orleans fans, you deserve it.