Back off the bench, Super Bowl stuff

Back after a week off, plus two weeks of jury duty, and there’s a lot of ground to make up.

I won’t tackle it all at once.

The Super Bowl is the first order of business today. Several thoughts:

Everyone is pointing to Saints coach Sean Payton’s decision to begin the second-half with an onside kick as the turning point of the game, and they’re right. Kudos to Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger, who pointed out, via the Twitter machine, “While everyone else was watching The Who at halftime, Sean Payton went with the stones.” But don’t forget the turn of events right before halftime. Indianapolis appeared to have the game in its hands with Peyton Manning trotting onto the field for a two-minute drill after a goal-line stand had seemingly demoralized the Saints. Instead, the Colts went conservative, with two running plays, and wound up giving New Orleans the ball back for a field goal at the end of the half.

Had Indianapolis made something out of its two-minute opportunity, Payton’s onside kick would’ve seemed more like an act of desperation instead of naked aggression.

Worse pick? Brett Favre’s interception at the end of regulation in the NFC title game against the Saints, or Manning’s INT that sealed the game for the Saints in the Super Bowl? I say Favre’s was worse, because he was forcing a play that didn’t need to be forced, and because he had some room to run. As well, at least part of Manning’s INT was on the receiver, who gave up inside position on the route. Still, for Manning to throw that interception in that situation is probably the most surprising mistake I’ve ever seen a veteran quarterback make in the Super Bowl.

The money shot from the game? Kudos to The New York Times’ Barton Silverman, who got perhaps the best candidate with his photo of Drew Brees and son, above.

In all, how many times have you seen a team be too conservative to win a Super Bowl? Indianapolis didn’t play four-down football when driving in the second half and sent a 42-year-old kicker out to try a 51-yard field goal that missed.

New Orleans took the risk, and it got the reward.

Finally, a spin around the national headlines:

Indy Star-News: “Manning’s Magic Ends”

New Orleans Times Picayune: “WHO DAT? NOBODY!”

ESPN.COM: “First time’s a charm!”

CBS Sportsline: “Big Easy Does It”

CNNSI.com: “Who Dat? The Champs!”

A strong effort from Yahoo! Sports: “LOMBARDI GRAS”

But you’ll have a hard time beating The Courier-Journal sports page headline from this morning: “ALL SAINTS DAY”

More to come, including the question of whether the Colts tempted football fate with their late-season strategy …

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