Sanity Injection

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Posts Tagged ‘Peyton Manning’

Thoughts on Super Bowl XLIV

Posted by sanityinjection on February 8, 2010

A few thoughts in the aftermath of the New Orleans Saints’ upset victory last night:

Drew Brees played very well, and no single player is more deserving of the MVP award, not to mention the recognition as a top-flight quarterback he has long deserved. Yet, in a game touted as a matchup between two high-powered offenses, the truth is it was the Saints’ defense that won the game, with multiple goal-line stops of the much-vaunted Colts’ offense, and of course the interception that sealed the game. None of what Brees did would have mattered if the Colts had been allowed to convert on their drives. The age-old saying “Defense wins championships” was no less true in this Super Bowl than it has been in most of them.

In turn, much of the credit for the inspired play of the defense should go to Saints head coach Sean Payton and his defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The Saints are not loaded with household names on defense – linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive back Darren Sharper being perhaps the best known until yesterday. But the Saints have done a tremendous coaching job with this unit, which has quitely played very well all season, and was particularly well prepared over the last couple of weeks for the supposedly unstoppable Colts offense. The Saints worked on facing the no-huddle and on blitz packages designed to put just enough pressure on Peyton Manning to give the Saint’s secondary a chance to make plays. Which is exactly what happened.

Finally, Payton deserves credit for some key decisions. The onside kick to start the second half was not only a bold move, but an unprecedented one in Super Bowl history. Payton correctly judged that it was worth the risk of giving up good field position to the Colts, given that Peyton Manning had just proven he didn’t need it by engineering a 96-yard drive. Then, the successful challenge of the 2-point conversion play. Make no mistake about it: The Saints players executed well on the field, but the roadmap to victory was drawn by Sean Payton and his staff. They outcoached the Colts, who have practically bragged about the fact that their head coach is basically just a  cipher for Peyton Manning. Manning calls the plays and runs the practices, and he does it well, but I think the Colts coaches relied on him too much and failed to game plan well enough for the Saints.

That is not to criticize Manning, whose one ill-timed interception should not obscure a good performance on his part. The Colts overall played a good game; they did not lose the Super Bowl so much as the Saints won it. Media members who are reviving whispers of Manning being a “choke artist” should be ashamed of themselves. Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game, and deserves to be mentioned alongside names like Montana, Young, Elway, and Staubach. Two days ago, sports analysts were debating whether he may be the best ever at the position. Yesterday’s result should not stifle that debate. If you doubt, go back and look at the stats from previous Super Bowls and see how many interceptions were thrown by the *winning* quarterbacks.

Rather, one might ask if a greater commitment to the running game by the Colts might have helped to keep the Saints’ offense off the field. Running backs Addai and Brown performed well when called upon, and the offensive line run blocks well. Surely the Colts did not draft Brown just to take fake handoffs from Manning.

Overall, the quality of the football on the field was high. There were few penalties, and only the one turnover which is rather remarkable. I would suggest that this had something to do with the fact that the #1 ranked teams with the best records in each conference were facing off against each other – no wild card teams or improbable Cinderellas here. Though you do have to like the back story of the Saints and the city of New Orleans.

For me, the enduring image that I will take away from Super Bowl XLIV will be that of Drew Brees after the game, surrounded by the celebrations, choosing to share his moment not with the crowd but with his infant son, conversing with him and kissing him affectionately as if he was home on his living room couch and not, for the moment, the center of the modern universe.  Brees’s son of course could not have had any understanding of what was going on, but Brees’ choice says a lot about what his priorities are, and set a strong example for millions of other men watching: Family is more important than anything else. If we learn nothing else from Super Bowl XLIV, let it be so much.

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