The Saints got one turnover on Sunday, but oh did they make it count. I can only imagine the decibel level on Bourbon Street as Tracy Porter jumped Reggie Wayne’s route and took it to the house in a moment sure to live in New Orleans lore. As a Colts fan, yeah I was tempted to take the school day off in favor of quiet contemplation/sleep but I really cannot complain too much about the game. It was an entertaining watch, well played, and lived up to the hype. We will get to specifics, but for now I cannot do anything else but applaud the Saints on being the better team on the day. If I had to choose one team to win a random game, I would still take my Colts, but that is surely a bit of bias along with the argument. After the first quarter, the Saints were nearly flawless and completely fitting of the adjective “Super”.
Who would have thought the first drive of the game between two teams with such good offense would end with a 3 and out? Not me. But the Colts had a little something for the Saints and it brought Thomas Morstead into action far earlier than he is accustomed. The Colts came out firing on every cylinder looking as explosive out of the gates as they have been in a long long time. Clark, Addai, Garcon and Collie all contributed as the Colts drew first blood on a 38 yard FG by Matt Stover. A solid start, and it was nice to see the offense get started early after so many games of not quite getting settled until late in the second quarter. So the Saints get the ball back and predictably… punt? Yeah, it would be fair to say the Saints had a bad case of the jitters as the usually sure-handed Marques Colston took one in the facemask instead of the hands. The Colts had the ball back and this time would not settle for less than 7 even though the drive started at their own 4. The running game really started to roll, Manning was clicking, and everyone was doing their part including Reggie Wayne, who had a quiet first half, throwing some outstanding blocks to spring Addai and Brown. Everyone was on the same page and for a few moments it looked like Tony Dungy would be correct in calling the game a blowout (a comment I resent but we will get to that later). Jabari Greer coems out for a play due to injury, Pierre Garcon turns his replacement around like Flo Rida or Dead or Alive and all of a sudden it was 10-0 Colts. A dream start for the Colts to say the least.
For Colts fans, this quarter felt like The Empire Strikes Back with a little deja vu mixed in. The Saints drought was no more and they proved it by driving down the field before settling for a Garrett Hartley kick. A note here: Dwight Freeney is a man. That is all. The Colts got the ball back and the game turned. Pierre Garcon caught the touchdown, but this time it would be his fatal flaw exposed. The man doesn’t have the hands of Wayne or Collie and it showed as he dropped a pass that would have given the Colts a sure first down. The Colts were no longer on the attack in the game. It was the Saints game to take, and Sean Payton knew it. So when the Saints got the ball back they drove down the field in a clock-devouring drive reminiscent of every divisional game the Colts play. Then came what many of us Colts fans thought was going to be our turning point. The Saints have the ball spitting distance from the goal line with first down. Pass outside, but well defended. False Start. Pierre Thomas runs to the 2. 3rd and Goal from the 2. Mike Bell takes the handoff and goes right, but as he goes into his cut, slips and is stopped at the 1. 4th and Goal. Sean Payton knew the Saints were on the offensive and acted accordingly. Pierre Thomas over the right side. Stopped. Eric Foster, Gary Brackett and seemingly 5 other Colts hit Thomas and killed the play. Colts ball, Colts momentum, and if the Colts were to go on to win, perhaps a moment to live on in Super Bowl lore. The game went from 10-10 back to 10-3 in the blink of an eye. You do not miss opportunities against the Colts and live to tell the tale. However, after three running plays forcing New Orleans to kill their timeouts, the Colts punted and the Saints made sure that their missed opportunity would not show on the score sheet. They drove down with under a minute remaining and Hartley booted it through to make it 10-6. It is not really a missed opportunity when you cash it in like that at the end of the half. It was only 3 points but if they do not get those points back it would have been huge. 10-6 going into the break. Madness to ensue.
I really really miss Keith Moon, legendary drummer of The Who whom died of a drug overdose at far too young an age. The current drummer of The Who, Zak Starkey (as Wikipedia informs me) just is not the drummer Mr. Moon was. Keith Moon was one of teh greatest drummers of all time not only because of his ability but because he was one of the rare entertainers to play drums. He would kick the set over, throw sticks, just go wild, and this guy cannot do that. That being said, the band did pretty damn well for a bunch of geezers and brought back memories of good music. I enjoyed the performance and can only imagine what would have happened had this taken place in, let’s say, 1970, instead of 2009. Also, zero chance of a nipple slip with these guys, though I wouldn’t generally put anything past Roger Daltry. Back to football.
They should have seen it coming. It was a good call by Sean Payton, but in no way was it original. As a Colts fan I can assure you that this happens every three weeks or so when a team realizes it really needs momentum and that they are ot stopping Manning as it is. If they recover it is a huge swing, and if not, Manning was going to get it there anyway. Hats off to Payton, but people should stop making him out to be a genius. To my knowledge, Jeff Fisher was the first to do this to the Colts, but still a good call. Saints ball, and Brees picked up right where he left off, driving the Saints down the field before punching it in. For that matter, Manning picked up right where he had been too, on the bench because his defense could not get off the field. He had to be having flashbacks to the rest of his career where this was almost unequivocally true. Saints 13-10.
However, He is not the MVP for no reason, and behind an uncharacteristically strong running game, the Colts responded like the outstanding team they are and retaliated with vengeance. It was methodical, smooth, and gave Colts fans hope after barely seeing their savior for the last hour or so of real time. Jophis Addai (as Shannon Sharpe likes to pronounce it) into the endzone, 17-13 Colts.
The Saints counter-punched but only came away with 3, again not struggling to move the ball. 17-16 Colts. Uncharacterstically, Peyton Manning did not realize just how close the game clock was to expiring on the 3rd quarter. I cannot name the last time Peyton Manning was not fully in control of his situation while on the field (to this point).
Manning is putting a drive together, but because he started with such poor field position they are not even in field goal range yet. The Colts have Adam Vinatieri, but he has been most of the year leaving the workload to the capable Matt Stover. The only problem is that he does not have a very big leg, but at 4th and 11 with a 50 yard field goal an option there is really no winning. Caldwell went with the field goal, which could have made it a 3 point game if New Orleans got a TD, which is probably smart. Of course all that is meaningless if your guy misses it because it gives the other team fantastic field position. The latter happened and any semblance of momentum the Colts had left like Mayflower vans at midnight (sorry Baltimore). Wide left, though it was a good effort. At this point, as a Colts fan, I was resigned to a New Orleans TD. We had not really stopped them in a while and there was just a feel about the moment that it would be 24 or 22-17 Saints and Peyton Manning would have a shot to bring the Colts back. Well, it felt that way at least. The first part happened with Jeremy Shockey grabbing a touchdown and Lance Moore’s 2 point conversion being allowed (probably correctly). 24-17 Saints.
This was it. Peyton Manning with the ball driving to win the game. Haters have enjoyed mocking his playoff record, but the man usually is playing against 2 defenses (his own and the other team’s) and is seemingly always being put in bad positions to make plays. Yet he still does it with astonishing regularity. That is for another day. Manning has the ball and is driving the Colts down the field like the best player in football tends to do and gets down to the New Orleans 31 with 3rd and 5. Let me pause for a second because if you watched the game you kind of know what is going to happen.
Pick 6 Tracy Porter. Game over. I knew it, New Orleans knew it, your dog knew it, everyone on the face of the planet
knew the game was over right then. They may not have admitted it, but the Saints were Super Bowl Champs at that point. It had the drama, the pomp, everything. It was a play deserving of clinching a Super Bowl. The Saints needed to win the turnover battle and in one fell swoop they won the turnover battle and the Super Bowl. Forgive me for not reminiscing too heavily about this as it is probably #2 in my most painful sports memories. Number one was Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. If you want to look it up you can, but you could not pay me to relive the experience.
The last drive really did not mean anything, the game was over right there, so to spare me the pain I will stop the game analysis there. Saints win, someone hide all the sharp objects.
After the game
My initial reaction is that the better team won on Sunday and I think I am sticking to that. It does not make it hurt much less, but I think that on February 7th, the Saints were the better team. Play it again in a week and I will take the Colts, but there is a 105% chance that there is bias there. I think the Saints were the best team on Sunday and that the Colts were the best team in football every day but one. I am not shortchanging you, New Orleans. There is no prize for being the best team in football every day but one, and the New Orleans Saints are rightful Super Bowl Champions but please at least let me hang on to a little dignity. Another thing I promised I would get back to is Tony Dungy saying the Colts would blow out the Saints. For a coach who never, ever gave another team bulletin board material he sure did pick a bad time to start. I do not think it really made the Saints win or anything, but come on Dungy, Indy did not need you running your mouth in the history of mankind. Congratulations New Orleans, you definitely paid your dues and now you get to experience Football Nirvana. Enjoy it.
Pretty meaningless side note, the commercials kind of sucked. I put a few below, but really they were kind of weak. Doritos did a good job, and Audi did a good job, and everyone else just spent several years average national income for 30 seconds.
Personally I think it would have been funnier if they had tasered people and things like that, but only because I think violence sells. Personally, I am going to start using the line “Take the house”.