Monday, February 08, 2010

Quickie: Saints Are The Anti-Colts?

What stood out for me most about the Saints' Super Bowl win over the Colts was that they quashed the cranks and doubters and pundits who consistently challenge any attempt to go against established NFL orthodoxy.

How many "experts" ripped Sean Payton for going for it on 4th down late in the 1st half?

How many "experts" would have ripped Payton for the onside kick, had it failed?

How many "experts" thought it was crazy to go for 2 on that TD? (I can't believe anyone would find it at all gutsy for Payton to have challenged the call, but I'm sure they are out there.)

How many "experts" -- say, Phil Simms, 10 freaking seconds before the play went off! -- would say that you simply can't run an all-out blitz on Peyton Manning with the game on the line?

And yet: Sean Payton and the Saints did all those things, enthusiastically and confidently. And you can only hope that it cracks the -- shall we call it -- "Dungy-esque" school of conservatism.

You all know how annoyed I am at the Colts for having thrown -- yes: thrown -- their final two regular season games, all in some belief it would help them win the Super Bowl.

It is a tenuous connection to link them, I know, but I can't help it: The team of tank-the-game conservatism lost; the team of go-for-it assertiveness won.

Can you imagine Caldwell going for it on 4th? Or trying for 2? Or -- ha! -- attempting that unprecedented onside kick? No way.

And if Payton had embraced his inner Caldwell, the Saints would have lost.

I needed a good superlative for this Super Bowl, and I got one in that onside kick, which I would argue is the gutsiest/most impressive/best play-call in Super Bowl history.

Obviously, we can say that because it worked. But it definitely wouldn't have worked had Payton not even bothered to try, out of fear or NFL convention or whatever drives most of the league.

Today's SN column leads with a tribute to Payton and the Saints playing to win, not playing it safe -- in stark relief to the way the Colts approached the season.

It was thrilling to see such aggressiveness rewarded.

Tons more in the column, including calling the game-sealing INT Peyton's career-defining moment, my favorite ads, an analysis of the Tebow ad, Georgetown, the Caps and more.

Check it out here. More later.

-- D.S.

1 comment:

Eric said...


Going for 2 was a no-brainer. The difference between a 5 or 6 point lead in a game with 5 minutes left is meaningless. Are you (random-expert-analyst) fearful the Colts may get two field goals in that time?

The go-for-it on 4th and goal at the time was a really smart play. A field goal would give the colts a chance at a return and a possible matching field goal (or more), whereas a touchdown would've made a bigger dent. The statistics on NFL drives generating points when driving from inside the 5 are overwhelmingly in favor of the defense. Not only did the Saints' defense prevent a score, the offense had just enough time for a field goal. It may have been counter-intuitive to most, but statistically it was easily the right call.

I know it'll never happen, but less would be so much more with all of these "analysts" on ESPN and CBS. To many mouths competing to give the same soft analysis.