I had hoped to do a preview for Super bowl XLIV as it's always more fun imagining the possibilities pre game than evaluating a standard win after the event. I never got the time to do so, but fortunately on this occassion the game lived up to potential. A game of high standard & close scoring ensured it was a tension filled right up to the very end.
Firstly a disclaimer. I am new to American Football so my thoughts are from that perspective. Though I've seen several football games going back a few years I only really followed the sport closely towards the backend of this season. I doubt this makes me the best person to report on the game but here goes anyway.
All the pre-match talk had suggested that the Indianapolis Colts just had too much class for the New Orleans Saints & that seemed to be the case after the Colts put together a 96 yard drive to open up a 10-0 score in the 1st quarter. Utilising a great zone blocking strategy & strong running from Addai allowed the Colts to move up the field before Peyton Manning combined with Pierre Garcon to complete the first Touch Down (TD) of the match. Coincidently it also matched the longest drive in Super bowl history. The Colts were clearly in the mood to demonstrate why they're the No.1 seeds.
Fortunately for Saints fans their team stepped up in the second quarter. Scoring first with a 46 yard field goal & then driving for the two yard line the Saints were right in the match. However when Mike Bell tripped at the two yard line the Saints Head Coach made a big call by going for the TD rather than the field goal. The Colts responded by stopping the Saints short of the end zone. It was a massive play by the Colts & set them up to see out the half. Surprisingly the Colts played it cautiously & were unable to make 1st down & therefore didn't gain enough territory. It meant the Saints with one completion were able to make a 44 yard field goal to ensure they reached half time at 6-10 down.
Well if Sean Peyton's first call was brave, his second was outrageous. Kicking off the second half the Saints went for the unorthodox by making an onside kick. It was the first occasion in Super bowl history that an onside kick had been attempted before the 4th quarter. After an all mighty melee the Saints came out with the ball. Fortune certainly favoured the brave & the Saints capitalised on that move by completing their first TD of the evening. Momentum was now clearly with the Saints after 13 unanswered points.
Peyton Manning may have been off the field for over an hour but he showed why he's a future hall of famer by driving his team downfield to score with a 76 yard drive. Highlights included a 26 yard gain on 3rd & 4 by Clark as well as a couple of rushes by Addai to complete the TD. A third Garrett Hartley 40+ field goal put the Saints within in 1 point as the third quarter ended.
The game was set up perfectly for the final quarter. The Colts were unable to drive significantly into Saints territory & failed to convert from 51 yard field goal attempt. The Saints offence was in full flow now & added their second TD of the match before adding a 2 point conversion with the aid of the review.
With just over 5 minutes remaining & trailing by 7 the Colts knew the pressure was on. At 31 yards from end zone the stage was set for Manning. At 3rd & 5 Manning did the unthinkable by throwing an interception return for TD. Tracy Porter made the interception just like he had in the championship game against another future hall of famer Brett Farve. At 31-17 the Saints knew they had one hand on the Vince Lombardi trophy. Peyton Manning had 3 minutes to make two scores. Moving within 5 yards of the Saints goal line the Colts just had to make that play. They were unable to convert & so the New Orleans Saints had secured a remarkable comeback & their first ever Super bowl triumph. Another great Super bowl was capped by the fairytale ending. Drew Brees was named MVP & he tied Tom Brady's Super Bowl record of 32 completed passes. The party in New Orleans will take some stopping.
That leads onto the only fault I've found with the NFL - a seven month off season. I hope everyone enjoyed the game as much as I did and I'll be back later with a detailed analysis of the game