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Super Bowl XLIV: Saints go marching in

Saints spot Colts 10-0 lead, then roar back for first Super Bowl title. The recap from a bummed-out Colts fan.

By Jim Buzinski
Outsports.com


How I saw the Super Bowl:

I hear there was a sporting event played Sunday but I decided to go antiques shopping, catch a chick flick and have dinner instead. Had a blast! Apparently, a team playing a sport called "football" based somewhere in the South beat one based somewhere in the Midwest. I am sure you can read all about it elsewhere. ...

When your team loses a championship game, the last thing you want to do is write a recap, but I will soldier on. I got home from the 31-17 New Orleans Saints win over the Indianapolis Colts and immediately deleted the four hours of the game I had taped on my DVR. I put on some music since I didn't want to hear all the postgame blather on ESPN or (worse) the NFL Network. I did check the Colts blogs I frequent to share common misery but pretty much will go into forced NFL isolation for a little bit.

Bottom line: The better team won, no excuses, The Saints trailed 10-0 and could have folded, but they outplayed and outcoached a Colts team that picked the worst time to have their most-flawed game of the season. Saints coach Sean Payton made one dumb call, but everything else he touched was golden. Peyton Manning played well but had one disastrous pass that was returned for the clinching touchdown. And the Colts defense really labored without a healthy Dwight Freeney.

The key sequences in the game came in the second and early third periods. The Colts had a 10-0 lead and Manning and the Indy offense was unstoppable. But it's hard to score when you don't have the ball. After the Colts scored their 10th point, the Saints had the ball for 34 of the next 40 plays and grabbed a 13-10 lead. What looked like a Colts blowout became a game and the tide had turned.

Freeney was nursing a bad ankle and save for one sack was ineffective. Against Drew Brees, no pass rush spells big trouble. Brees (the game MVP) was 32 for 39 and threw completions to eight different receivers. His longest pass was only 27 yards, but the ability to milk the clock for such a large part of the game was key. The Colts gained 432 yards, but 120 came in two fourth-quarter drives that resulted in no points.

There were two turning points. The first was the Colts' Pierre Garcon dropping a pass wide open on third down in the second quarter with Indy up 10-3. If he catches the easy ball, the Colts have a first down at midfield and maybe score. Instead, it was three and out and the game dynamic changed.

The second was Payton's decision to begin the third quarter with an onsides kick. The Saints recovered and took the lead. The gamble paid off by denying Manning another possession, and it was no surprise that Hank "Stone Hands" Baskett muffed the kick for the Colts coverage team (Eagles fans will chuckle knowingly).

Payton also made a strategically smart call to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 late in the first half. The play call (a delayed run) was dumb, but it was brilliant not to kick the field goal there, since it would have left Indy 1:55 and all three timeouts; this is a Colts team that had scored three postseason TDs in the final two minutes of the half. Instead, the Colts unwisely played it conservatively in the shadow of their end zone (with three runs, including two by the little-used Mike Hart), and were forced to punt. The Saints got a last possession and kicked a field on the final play of the half. The result was that they wound up getting their three points, but kept Manning from having the ball with good field position and a lot of time.

As for Manning's Pick Six, not much to say. The DB, Tracy Porter, read the route and it was obvious Manning and receiver Reggie Wayne weren't on the same page (they could be seen discussing the play right after). Steve Young on ESPN (via Yahoo) said the fault was Wayne's. "It's Wayne's job to cut underneath the defender and shield him from that football," was Yahoo take on Young's comment.

Wayne did not have a good game -- he never got a lot of separation and dropped a TD on what turned out to be the Colts final play that would have at least given them a prayer of coming back. He hurt his knee in the Friday practice, and maybe it was worse than they led on. Some people will blame Manning for the loss, but that's insane. He was the only reason they were there and sometimes a defender makes a great play.

All in all, it wasn't a scintillating game, I think mainly because of the lack of jump-out-of-your-seat plays. But Cyd did get so excited on the Pick Six (he does not like the Colts) that he screamed and jumped so much that it made my friend JP's 1-year-son Hayden start crying (either that, or Hayden had taken the Colts and laid the points). Jim Allen wanted to leave JP's at that moment, but we stayed to endure to the bitter end. I watched every Colts game but two with Jim all season and it was awesome, even while watching an inglorious disaster of a defeat.

The game was cleanly played, though -- few penalties (eight total), one turnover and only one booth review.

Who would've thunk?: The 14-point margin of victory was the largest in the Super Bowl since the 2002 season (Tampa Bay by 27 over Oakland). Imagine getting the Colts +13 pregame? You would have thought the person making the bet was nuts.

Jinx: I blame JP for the Colts loss. He had gone for a pregame run and watched the first quarter in his sweaty running gear. Colts 10-0. He then decided to clean up and put on (of all things) a Tennessee Titans sweatshirt. WTF? That's like in the NBA someone wearing a Clippers shirt for good luck, or a France shirt during a war. From then on, the Saints outscored the Colts, 31-7.

JP claimed he was rooting for the Colts, but the shirt change was a deliberate, provocative act to ensure a Titans division rival would lose. He will pay! It also didn't help that Cyd showed up at halftime and Brent in the second quarter, both of who changed the pro-Colts vibe in the room. I hope they are all happy for making me miserable.

More pain: JP made a great comment about how San Diego Chargers fans must be sick. Two years ago, Eli Manning (who forced a draft trade from the Chargers to the Giants in 2004) wins a Super Bowl, and now Brees does. The Chargers had let Brees walk after the 2005 season, deciding to keep Philip Rivers.

Double standards: Good line from Brent - "If they can show Pete Townsend's bare midriff at halftime, and that skinny kid getting smothered in the sumo's crotch, who said CBS has ‘broadcast standards??!' "

But we can't have any gay ads, though. Tom Shales had a great observation about the tone of many of the ads: "An oddly recurring theme had to do with men asserting their masculinity, or attempting to assert it, as well as the perpetual male fear of emasculation."

Commercials: Who cares? I never get into them (but the Leno-Oprah-Letterman 15-second promo ad was genius) but feel free to use the comments to talk about them or the game.

The Who: I liked the light show. Jim Allen loved their set.

CBS: Not their best effort. Not enough key replays and they were really slow in posting the down and distance.

Thanks! I wrote notes every week of the season and appreciate all the nice comments I have received.

The end: No more NFL until September. As my brother Paul e-mailed me after the game -- "Now it's 7 months of darkness."