Despite Payton’s mistakes, the Saints emerge victorious in Super Bowl XLIV

There’s a difference between being risky and being stupid and Sean Payton straddled that line all night tonight.

With the Colts ahead 10-3 late in the first half and his team facing a 4th and 1 from the one-yard line, I thought Payton did the right thing by winding the clock down to the two-minute warning before making a decision on whether or not to go for it or kick a field goal. Unfortunately for the Saints, he arguably made the wrong decision by going for it as Pierre Thomas slipped and was stopped short of the goal line.

Forget the fact that Thomas slipped – it was a dumb decision by Payton. Not to go for it mind you – one could debate that it was a decent call given the score and situation. But calling a running play out the single back formation when he has a quarterback like Drew Brees running his offense just wasn’t a smart decision by Payton. I could go as far as to say it was a horrendous play call and he was lucky that his defense produced a three and out on the Colts’ next series and wound up still getting a field goal to cut the Colts’ lead to 10-6 right before half anyway.

Then to open the second half, Payton called a surprise onsides kick and had the Colts player fielded it cleanly, the Saints would have been screwed with horrible field position and a total lack of momentum. Payton once again came up lucky that 1) the Colts player mishandled it and 2) the Saints jumped on it, or else Indy might have ran out to an early double-digit lead early in the second half.

But despite all that, the New Orleans Saints are Super Bowl Champions. Despite all of Payton’s mistakes, the Saints were still able to execute. Despite getting dominated in the first quarter, the Saints didn’t freak out and the wound up being victorious in the end. Despite having so much go against them early on, the Saints were the team that showed enough grit and determination in the end to beat an opponent that had just won the Super Bowl four years ago and that had the Hall of Fame quarterback.

And you know what? That’s a testament to Sean Payton.

The Saints have had their backs against the wall several times this season, including near losses in Miami and Washington during the regular season, as well as when they entered the postseason as losers of three straight. But their head coach never wavered in his confidence for his team and they repaid him by showing their confidence in him. Forget destiny – the Saints won because they all bought into Payton’s philosophy. Brees may be the face of the franchise, but Payton is the heart and soul.

A team that didn’t have as much trust in their head coach would have lost tonight. But because the Saints backed Payton, they were able to overcome his mistakes and dominate three of the four quarters to become Super Bowl champs. It takes a special team to do what Payton’s Saints just did.

I’ll be doing more Super Bowl XLIV recap posts, so make sure to click here for more coverage.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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