Congrats to the Saints and all the Saints fans I know. There is one guy from Nawlins that I work with, then there is Bob/R.L. McCray - a sports writer from Corry who did some work for the Erie paper and may still write for Warren. Great game. Hats off to the guy at Football Outsiders, who opened my eyes a couple days before the game with his insights on why the Colts were a good match-up for the Saints. One of the reasons he gave was the favorable coaching match-up, and I think we all agree that Sean Payton orchestrated a beautiful game, with the great on-side kick contributing immensely to the win. Of course, Brees had to execute and did a nice job, but let's take a look at Payton's other great call: Going for it on fourth and two late in the second quarter:
Yes, the Saints got stuffed and handed the ball back over to Peyton Manning and the Colts, with the Saints trailing by seven with two minutes to go in the half. (The Colts were also due to get the ball to start the third quarter, or so we thought). However, the Colts also got the ball on the two-yard line, which affected the plays they would call. Had the Saints gone for the field goal and kicked off, the Colts more likely would have received the ball past the 20 and closer to the 30. From there, with two minutes left, I'm betting Manning works it downfield for at least a field goal and perhaps a touchdown. So, kicking the field goal from the two was likely at best a break-even proposition and at worst a minus-four point swing for the Saints.
Payton (Sean) made what some would call a gutsy decision to go for it on fourth down from the two. However, he was really just playing the percentages - so it was more of a smart call. But, sometimes, it does take guts to be smart and go against conventional wisdom.
Payton was gambling and playing better odds than he had decided to kick the field goal. Here's why, based on the possible outcomes:
a. the Saints score a TD from the two - at best a plus-7 gain in the score, at worst a break-even proposition, if the Colts get the ball back and march down the field
b. the Saints get stuffed, stop the Colts, get the ball back and kick a longer field goal, which is still worth three points (and run out the clock for the half), which is what happened - this is a plus-three proposition for the Saints
c. the Saints D stops the Colts from scoring, but the Colts either run out the clock or the Saints get the ball back and can't score - a break even proposition, which is likely the best outcome if the Saints had kicked the field goal from the two and kicked-off to the Colts
d. The Colts take the downfield from the two and score-either a minus-three or minus-7 proposition - with the minus 3 being more likely - and still a better result than the minus-four possibility if the Saints kicked the field goal and kicked off.
Does that make any sense? The bottom line is that by going for it on fourth-and-two, Payton (Sean) created a higher chance of a better scoring outcome for his team in the last two minutes of the half.
Manning's ego problem
I'll conclude by discussing briefly Peyton Manning's ego and how it ultimately resulted in the game-clinching interception for the Saints. Colts have the ball on like the Saints 40, down by seven, third-and-five, with like four minutes to play. I'm watching the game with by buddy, who's a junior high football coach and he says, "this is four down territory, the Colts should run it here." Makes perfect sense to me, because their halfback, Josesph Addai, really had a great game and seemed to be running the ball well. I predicted the Manning would not want to give up control of the situation to another player and would therefore call a pass play. Exactly what happened - six points the other way for the Saints - Game Over. Manning is a great quarterback, one of the best ever, but there's a reason he's only won the big one once (and it's the same reason Dan Marino never won it). He's still not bigger than the game and 11 guys will more often beat one guy - or however many guys Manning wants to get involved with the play. Addai was having a great game, Manning should have recognized that and let him have his moment - but he just couldn't do it. Oh well - congrats to Joseph Addai on a great Super Bowl!