Well, was it possible for me to be more wrong about the Super Bowl? I sure came off as confident, and perhaps arrogant in my Super Bowl prediction post, almost Tony Dungy-esque. I think I was blinded my bitterness coming off of the Vikings’ loss to the Saints, and I was far too influenced by the Saints’ last performance, which I was underwhelmed by. I also had endless confidence in Manning’s abilities, and ironically, a throw made by him put the game out of reach for his team. So here are my top 5 observations that I take away from the game, some of which I hope are a bit more under the radar than others.
5. Garrett Hartley: Clutch
The same guy who missed a chip-shot to avoid an eventual overtime loss to the pathetic Tampa Bay Bucs in Week 16 of the regular season came through with 3 huge field goals in this game, all of which came at 40+ yards. This kid was perhaps the greatest unsung hero of the night. Sean Payton put his full trust in him to not only put points on the board, but to do so when missing means putting the Colts offense in great field position. (Stash that point away for later.)
4. The Onside Kick: Good Coaching, Bad Coaching, Bad Hands, or just plain luck?
As soon as the second half started with that onside kick, (which was perfectly kicked) I immediately was disappointed in myself for not seeing it coming. Sean Payton just strikes you as the kind of guy who will roll the dice (already proven by the 4th down run at the goal line), and you knew he didn’t want Manning to march on his D again to go down two scores. The statistic was that this was the first ever non-fourth quarter onside kick in Super Bowl history, so I give Payton credit for having the guts to make this call, knowing the Colts wouldn’t expect it, but also knowing it could backfire. I thought that I should have know that the onside kick was a possibility, but who should have really suspected it were the guys getting 6 figures to coach a professional football team on the Colts sideline. I think the special teams coordinator should have realized the idea of it, or maybe even Jim Caldwell. But maybe that’s a bit unfair of me. But then there’s Hank Baskett, whose name would suggest that the ball would land softly in his grasp and never leave, but on the contrary, he just looked about as athletic as Stanley Hudson in the basketball episode of The Office, and let the ball bounce off of him and into a big scrum for the ball. I thought the replay looked like the Colts had it, but if the refs don’t see it right away, it’s up for grabs in that pile, so you can’t complain. So with all of the “bounces” that seemed to go the Saints’ way in order to execute this onside kick, it was kind of a lucky play, which in football, sometimes you need to win.
3. The Stover 51 yard FG miss: Worst decision of the night outside of the Manning interception
Matt Stover has been a very accurate kicker throughout his career. That being said, I cannot disagree with Caldwell’s decision to send him out there to kick that 51 yarder with a 17-16 lead any more. At that point in the game, the Colts were having a bit of trouble stopping the Saints’ offense, so why would you kick a field goal that A) if you miss, gives them the ball at their own 41, or B) if you make, you kick off to them and they get the ball between their 35-15 (guessing), when you could punt and pin them inside the 10 or 5 and make it very hard for them to produce a scoring drive. Also, it’s risk versus reward. With a make, you take your lead from 1 to 4, which pushes it past a field goal game, but it’s still a one possession game, and the Saints get decent field position with a make and great field position with a miss. If it would have made it a two score game, or put the Colts up by 1 or 2, or tied the game, I would have agreed with the decision because of reward of the situation. But a 42 year old kicker out doors does not give you a good enough chance to make the kick for what you could gain from it. They should have punted.
2. The 4th and goal decision by Payton: Correct, but did he get lucky again?
I thought that Sean Payton made the right choice to go for the touchdown on fourth down and goal in the second quarter, but he lucked out that the Colts were slightly too content with a seven point lead, and he got an extra 3 points out of it. The way I see it, the way the Colts were moving the ball in the first half, it would have been foolish to kick the field goal and give Peyton the ball at about the 25 with about 2 minutes to go in the half. I see that as best case scenario 10-6, worst case scenario 17-6, and possibly 13-6, but most likely would have looked like 17-6 Colts at halftime. With his decision to go for it, even when the Colts got the stop, they had to play tight and run the ball to get out of the shadow of their goalpost to avoid giving the Saints the ball back with really good field position. Even if the Colts had gotten the first down on the Addai run on 2nd down and long, it would have already killed almost a minute of their time to march down the field, since they weren’t calling timeouts due to fear of the Saints getting the ball again.
1. Garcon’s drop early in the 2nd quarter: ouch
Up until that point, the Colts had scored on every possession. The score was 10-3, and Peyton was making every big throw while being pressured, or picking apart the coverage when the Saints would drop 8 and rush only 3. On this particular play, it was third down, and Garcon got single man to man coverage with Jabari Greer, and he ran a perfectly crisp route that left him wide open as he crossed the field coming out of his break. Peyton led him perfectly in stride, and I think Pierre started to look at all of that open green grass ahead of him, and he just missed an easy reception. Now it’s only speculation, but I dare say that the Colts go on to keep moving the ball and dominating the time of possession in the first half if that catch is made, but instead, Peyton and the Colts had to punt and the Saints played the ball control style of offense, and went on to dominate the quarter. Otherwise, it could have been at least a two score game at half time, and I’m not sure the Colts aren’t the Super Bowl Champions today. That’s an awful lot of speculation, but that’s just my take. Drops like that are disheartening, and it just felt like a bad omen and a huge missed opportunity for the Colts.
Anyhow, you Saints can enjoy this for now, but next year hopefully the old man either retires or breaks in his first preseason game, and Tarvaris Jackson and the Vikings will trounce you in the Metrodome.
My Super Bowl XLV Prediction:
Vikings 34, Ravens 24
Haha, Go Vikes!