Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
08 Feb 2010
compiled by Bill Barnwell
Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching.
On Sunday night, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, so we might not discuss every aspect of the game to the level we do in our other articles.
Bill Barnwell: We (me and Aaron) were surprised here by the Saints' decision to go deep on third and short to start. Think that's reasonable.
Dallas Clark dominating early against Harper/Shanle et al. My choice for Super Bowl MVP. Saints are throwing out a bunch of weird looks -- 3-4, blitzes all on the edges -- but no pressure.
Tom Gower: Saints D showing the 3-4 look the opening drive. They may be bringing extra guys sometimes, but it's not Rex Ryan-style creativity, so Peyton isn't having much trouble with it. Plus, it's extra edge pressure-nothing up to loosen up the middle and bringing extra guys there, which is what I thought they needed to do.
Doug Farrar: Saints seem to be doing to Freeney what they did to Jared Allen -- take the inside rush off of Bushrod and push him into Carl Nicks.
Will Carroll: It's the wrong thing to do - Freeney's more challenged by a hit to the outside. Letting him inside is letting him off the hook.
Doug Farrar: They’re probably going to be better off playing back a bit, allowing the short stuff, and preventing anything after the catch. They have the skill players to make that happen. The completion to Collie on the first drive was off a more aggressive approach – Example #1,786,345 of “If you go after Manning, you’d better get there”. Defense seems more effective when they’re dropping guys as opposed to extra aggressiveness.
Mike Tanier: Yes: Lots of 3-4 look by the Saints. I think they may be trying to get 8 men in coverage at times.
First Colts drive was their typical water-torture drip.
It was cool to see Matt Stover in that commercial with Betty White. I loved Stover in Barney Miller.
Aaron Schatz: Saints seem to be playing primarily 3-3-5, since the Colts generally have Clark flexed or go three-wide. As I mentioned in the preview, Greer always plays on the defensive left, and that means he is playing on Pierre Garcon. Honestly, I'm surprised they've actually thrown to Garcon twice given the drop in quality between Greer and everyone else. Tracy Porter's on Wayne, and colossal black hole seems to be assigned to Dallas Clark.
Also, I forgot to mention in the preview: The Saints don't just blitz a lot. They also rush only three a lot. They rushed only three 13 percent of pass plays, third in the NFL. They're doing a lot of rush-three tonight out of 3-4 or 3-3-5.
Two offensive drives for Saints. Where's all the funky formation stuff? So far, they've only used actual wide receivers at wide receiver. This lack of the unexpected is quite unexpected.
Super Bowl MVP after 10 minutes: Courtney Roby!
Tom Gower: To answer William Butler Yeats' question, the center can sort of hold. The Colts DL is moving the Saints OL and they're getting close to Brees, but it feels like they'll be getting to him later.
Will Carroll: So is it 3-3-5 for the Saints vs 3-4?
Tom Gower: They've been running both, but regardless, three defensive linemen rather than the usual four.
David Gardner: Nice to see that Joseph Addai has been keeping himself fresh all season in preparation for this game.
Bill Barnwell: Early candidate for stupidest Phil Simms quote -- suggesting that Wayne would see single coverage because Garcon had a big game last week. Listen -- I want to believe it when I read about commentators watching tons of film, and Phil Simms knows a lot more about X's and O's than I do. But I mean -- this isn't rocket science. You don't think Darrelle Revis has anything to do with Wayne having a bad day? Or that Greer might line up against Garcon all day because that's what the Saints have done all year? Ugh.
Doug Farrar: The Colts are bashing away at the Saints' Achilles heel (stopping the run) more than I thought they would early on. Would the Saints be better off with more four-man fronts, allowing them to do more things with their linebackers without worrying about inside contain?
Mike Tanier: They are catching the Saints in that 3-man line, with Vilma bailing out in Tampa-2 or other zone assignments. The 3-linemen get washed out (even though they are often in that solid front, one over the center, one over each guard) and Vilma is in no position to stop the run.
This happened several times on second down on the second drive, always after audibles.
Gregg Williams has to call something else. He needs some linebackers in those interior gaps.
Oh, and they don't seem to be sending three. They are sending 5 a lot from those 3-man fronts. It has had a little success -- Manning has had to throw off balance -- but if the consequence is Vilma bailing and Addai and Brown gaining 10-yards, guess what.
Tom Gower: That's been the dilemma the whole time. It bugs the hell out of me to see the Titans never blitz Peyton, but that's the strategy if you have a hope of getting pressure with your front 4. And Grant and Smith against Diem and Johnson seems like a better matchup than letting Peyton find the free guy against the blitz or Addai run for 100 yards.
Mike Tanier: Usama Young looked mixed up. But Harper appeared to be defending gee golly no one as the deep safety.
Aaron Schatz: They were sending three a lot on the first Colts drive, but yeah, not on the second one.
Tom Gower: Greer being out, if it is for any extended period, is huge. Peyton's absolutely fantastic at spotting those mismatches; did it during the Jets game, did it to the Titans for a score when Pacman went out in a game, does it all the time.
Vince Verhei: Early in the second, it's easy to see the LVPs of the game: the New Orleans safeties. Sharper missed a tackle and on one of Addai's big runs, and Harper didn't react at all to Garcon's touchdown.
On their third drive, it looks like the Saints have remembered that they're really good at running.
Mike Kurtz: The Saints apparently did not read.. well... anything this week, as they have forgotten that Indy is really, really fast throughout the defense, yet they keep calling sweeps and stretches, with predictable results.
Will Carroll: Freeney is flat out at 100%. I wouldn't put it past Polian to find out this was all a setup.
Tom Gower: Jermon Bushrod sucks.
Bill Barnwell: Seems like the only guy getting open for the Saints is Colston against the linebackers.
Bill Barnwell: Saints are trying to mix stuff up, but the only guy getting open is Colston against their linebackers and slot guys. Saints just went max protect and there was nobody getting open deep.
David Gardner: I feel like the Saints fail on those trick reverses a lot more than they succeed.
Tom Gower: I guess both Colts DBs deciding not to cover Lance Moore was so stupid Sean Payton decided he needed to balance out that stupidity with that end around.
Vince Verhei: End-arounds against the Colts: Bad idea. End-arounds against the Colts just outside the Red Zone: Terrible idea.
Sometimes Sean Payton just gets too cute for his own good.
And then Brees bails him out, hitting Colston on a seam route to convert second-and-17 and set up first-and-goal at the three.
Bill Barnwell: Aaron suggested that teams teach players to throw the ball out of bounds on doomed reverses like the one Henderson just went on. I disagree; think players are too likely to fumble.
Mike Kurtz: By the time the end-around/reverse has truly blown up, linemen are already downfield, so you're most likely only gaining a down but still losing the yardage. Plus, the refs would almost certainly be looking out for grounding, which means you're even more likely to lose both.
Aaron Schatz: Peyton Manning has a look on his face like he wants to make his defense go sit in the port-a-let for 20 minutes.
The Saints get stuffed on fourth-and-short inside the Colts 5.
Vince Verhei: That fourth-and-goal. Oh man. That's just... That's... Bad decision to go for it. Bad to run a dive out of a three-wide set. Payton may cost his team the game.
David Gardner: I can't imagine that Brees is happy about three runs near the goal line there.
Bill Barnwell: Disagree. Good decision to go for it; bad decision to run a sweep and even worse execution of that decision. That's +EV there, you're costing your team 1, 2 points by kicking the field goal, and you want as many points as you can get.
Vince Verhei: Going for it on fourth, and failing, took three points off the board, and left them with little time to get the ball back. They did get the ball back, and got one first down, and got the field goal anyway. I think they got lucky, not that they used wise strategy.
Had there been 5 to 10 minutes left in the half, yes go for it. Two minutes, you should kick.
Bill Barnwell: The expectation there is still that the opposition will score negative points, even if it's the Colts. Going for it, you're looking at an expectation of about 4.2-4.3 points considering the likelihood of getting the kick and the Colts turning the ball over on the subsequent possession; that's even without including the idea of getting the ball back and scoring. Kicking the ball, the expectation's about 2.95 points.
Aaron Schatz: Agreed. Only reason you could argue that it is wrong to go for it there is the argument "well, part of the reason you go for it at the goal line is that the other team is in 'negative value' position when they're trapped in their own end -- but you wouldn't really have the time to get the ball back for another drive in good field position." But actually... the Saints are about to get the ball back in good field position.
Tom Gower: Running outside against the Colts D is too much fail, and the Saints did it on both 3rd and 4th down. I'd have been fine either kicking or going for it.
I would have liked to see the Colts take a shot on that possession; I see the logic, but giving the Saints the ball back without letting your best player try something feels wrong to me.
Mike Tanier: I didn't mind the go-for-it or the call. I think they got out-guessed. The Colts just weren't going to spread their defense out no matter how much motion the Saints pulled.
On that drive to the one, the Colts kept getting caught in their little blitz package, the one where they think they are the Steelers two plays per game and can zone blitz. The catch where Moore was open, and one of their other receptions, came on ragged blitzes either from 3-man fronts or 4-man fronts with a defensive end so wide he was in, like, the 13-technique. They should probably scrap those blitzes and just be the Colts.
Finally sent the 7-year old to bed. CJ kept asking me during the commercials what was real. He probably thinks that whales ride in trucks. Or that Roger Daltrey is still alive.
Ned Macey: At halftime, the game has played out like I'd thought, but that means the Colts are up about 4, which isn't much after the hot start. Hard to be too upset about the offense, when the Saints only stop before that weird last series was the Garon drop. Kudos to whoever (Aaron or Bill) highlighted that the Colts were good in short-yardage, and while I know in general you should run there, I agree with the CBS halftime guys that you should have thrown there.
I think the Colts' last drive was really interesting from a clock-management perspective on both sides. I think, actually, that both guys played it right, but it was interesting how the Saints were floating between using their time-outs and not. Hard to know what would have happened if they'd called their timeout after the first-down run; would that extra time have allowed them to go for a TD?
I like Michael Lewis; I liked the Blind Side. But, the thesis takes a bit of a hit when you have two offense-first teams in the Super Bowl playing Bushrod and Charlie Johnson at left tackle.
Doug Farrar: You could extend that to last year’s Super Bowl as well, though the Steelers certainly had a matching defense. Maybe elite left tackles aren’t as important in the new era of mega-shotgun/short-drop offenses.
Aaron Schatz: Well. Ned, at least for your sake, Johnson is better than Bushrod.
What a shock, this game is close. It's almost as if these teams are evenly matched! My only surprise, I guess, is that the score is relatively low. Would have expected something more like 20-17 at the half, not 10-6.
Vince Verhei: I'd like to thank the Saints for wearing their gold pants and not the black. From a uniform standpoint, this may be the prettiest Super Bowl ever.
Part of the reason for the low score is that the game has been very short, possession-wise. Colts only had the ball four times in the first half: A long touchdown drive, a long field-goal drive, and two three-and-outs -- one of which they were inside their own five inside of two minutes, just trying to kill the clock. They only have ten points, but they've done OK.
Saints, same thing -- they've got a long field-goal drive, a short field-goal drive, a long drive ending on fourth down, and a couple of punts. They're moving the ball, just not getting into the end zone.
Boomer Esiason said it's time for the Saints to abandon the run and let Drew Brees win the game. Ignoring that the Saints are best when their offense is diversified, and that the Colts' run defense is poor, They've already got 23 pass plays and 12 runs. How out-of-whack do you want them to get?
David Gardner: This stage is one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. I'm mesmerized by it.
Vince Verhei: Oh, and I agree with David Gardner: That stage was amazing, and the Who were pretty cool. I have a feeling they were told, just stand there in the middle and play your songs, and for the LOVE OF GOD do not step outside the speakers, or you'll get blowed up.
Bill Barnwell: I turned into the Puppy Bowl at halftime expecting puppies. I did not get puppies. I got kittens. This is highly disappointing.
Doug Farrar: Oh, wow. And there’s Sean Payton, winning the All-Time Balls of Steel award for that onside kick.
Vince Verhei: Yes. Sometimes he gets too cute for his own good and sometimes his cuteness gives his team another possession. Especially there, where the risk of giving your opponent a short field is lessened, since the Colts are likely to score from anywhere anyway.
David Gardner: Guys, according to Phil Simms, the Saints were NOT -- I repeat NOT -- playing pat-a-cake before this game. Please alert others in the media.
Mike Kurtz: May actually be wrong (Will would know), but I always thought that training staffs tried to put off taping/shots/etc as long as possible before throwing the player in. If true, Payton not only got his team a possession right off the bat, but also kept Freeney off the field. CBS showed him being quickly taped up on the sidelines as New Orleans marched down the field.
Will Carroll: Very true. Can't do injections on sidelines though - against rules.
Tom Gower: Backside pursuit from Muir and Johnson was slow on that screen, else they had it stopped. Disappointing effort, or maybe I'm reading more into that than was there.
If the Colts lose this game because of giving the Saints the ball back without letting him throw, that Garcon drop, and not being ready/Baskett flubbing that onside kick attempt, Peyton is going to get dinged for it and he and I will both be throwing things.
David Gardner: That Clark catch was over four defenders. Wow.
Vince Verhei: I thought the Saints just did a great job of setting that screen up, and then threw a bunch of great blocks.
Your note about Manning is spot-on.
Will Carroll: Seriously. I love Joseph Addai.
Tom Gower: Great design, great execution, good grab, that whole play was just amazing. I think that play was the first time they put Wayne on the right side this game-pretty sure he was in the slot with Garcon outside and Collie split wide left. One thing I was definitely wrong about was the Saints minimizing TEs and Clark not having a good game-he's really been a big part of the gameplan tonight, even when the Colts are in 3WR.
Addai's a really good player. The game I went to in Indy he ended up with like 3 ypc but must have had 3/4 of his credited yards after contact. Best OL in the league whatever.
Aaron Schatz: I think we may have discovered why Jabari Greer was much better in man coverage than in the Bills' Cover-2 scheme. Not so great with the tackling.
Mike Tanier: Another great play by Courtney Roby on the kickoff return.
I wish I had a Hank Baskett "Hands Team" joke, but I just don't. It really is the end of the season.
Collie and Peter Boy are both doing a nice job cracking safeties on running plays. They are getting Addai a lot of extra yards by mixing it up in the middle of the field.
Should I call that phone number Neil Patrick Harris keeps holding up?
Vince Verhei: Stupid record of the day: Garrett Hartley is the first kicker with three 40-plus-yard field goals in a Super Bowl. So he gets a record because hits team's offense kept stalling once it crossed midfield. Yippee.
Will Carroll: Oh, Francisco's taking a fine for that elbow.
Vince Verhei: Fourth-and-2 with Porter one-on-one against Wayne? We'll take that first down, thanks.
David Gardner: Manning didn't even seem to look over to Jim Caldwell before going for it there.
Bill Barnwell: That's because it wasn't up to Jim Caldwell, regardless of what Phil Simms thinks.
Mike Kurtz: Incidentally, that was all Manning. Shifted formation to test the saints short run D, nothing changed, moved into a quick slant and just blew it up. Beautiful.
Aaron Schatz: I'm blown away by how non-existing the Colts blocking has been on these WR screens to Collie.
Tom Gower: The WRs doing this spin move after catching the screen and that time the DB read it and made the play. I hate that part of the design for that play.
Vince Verhei: Well, on that one, it looked like Collie ran right when the blockers were to his left.
Mike Kurtz: How many tackles has Session screwed up or just flat-out missed? The guy's been a disaster all game.
Will Carroll: Game? Why stop there?
Vince Verhei: Attention mainstream media: This guy picking apart the Colts defense and throwing a go-ahead touchdown to Jeremy Shockey is named Drew Brees. And he's not a good story because he hurt his shoulder, and he's not a good story because he hangs out with sick children. He's a good story because he's maybe the best quarterback in the league, and has been for a few seasons.
Doug Farrar: If Sean Payton threw a challenge flag on that two-pointer, I wouldn’t call him crazy.
Tom Gower: I HATE this challenge by Sean Payton. There's NO way the booth overrules the call by a ref in perfect position like that. If you do, you're basically admitting nobody, not even the best officials in the league, has any f---ing clue how to call that play.
Bill Barnwell: Consider it admitted.
Vince Verhei: Don't like that reversal on the two-point conversion. Video wasn't conclusive one way or another. Call on the field should not have been changed.
Aaron Schatz: I'm a little confused as to why that doesn't follow the "must control ball all the way through the catch" rule, the Louis Murphy thing from the first week that PFT has been harping on all year. Yes, he got the ball over the goal line, but he still has to control the ball all the way through the catch, right? If he does that in the back of the end zone without having to "stretch it over the line," and the same thing happens, is it still a good conversion?
I don't think it has to do with video... I think they're saying the guy on the field misinterpreted the rule. That's the only reason to overturn there...
Tom Gower: It is, it's the same damn rule, only the official on the field thought he lost possession before completing the catch and on review they decided he had indeed completed the catch and that the DB had knocked the ball loose.
Rob Weintraub: Whatever one might think about the 2-point conversion, the macro is this--super-duper-slo-mo, microscopic frame by frame examination of plays to overturn calls is not what the replay rule was ever intended for.
Vince Verhei: Phil Simms says the Saints will start to play defense differently with a touchdown lead. Nope, they keep rushing five and Manning has no trouble with it.
Aaron Schatz: OH MY F-----G GOD.
Actually, I take that back. MON F-----G DIEU.
Tom Gower: Will Smith blocked Peyton in the back at midfield. Naturally, there was no call.
The annoying part about the SB is it's almost all new commercials, so I feel like I should watch the commercials instead of rewinding the play to get another look at what happened.
Bill Barnwell: Bad throw by Manning, just ahead of Wayne, who also didn't come smoothly out of his cut. Wow.
Vince Verhei: Manning had trouble with the six-man rush.
Aaron Schatz: Tom's right. I was going to say "see, I told you that Scott Green didn't call roughing the passer," but then we saw the replay, and yes, Will Smith blocked Manning in the back on the interception return, and the touchdown should have been called back, Saints ball around midfield.
Tom Gower: The play I want to see again is the second down pass to Collie. I strongly suspect Jenkins should've been flagged for contact/DPI, but of course he wasn't and CBS didn't show us a replay to check.
Will Carroll: Hargrove should be ejected for that blatant spear.
Vince Verhei: The run on third-and-goal was madness. And now the clock is running. And now the fourth down pass failed and the Saints have won the Super Bowl.
Aaron Schatz: Well, here we are. Game over. Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints. Great season. I have so much respect for what Gregg Williams did with this defense, and for the creative and fearless way Sean Payton coaches, and for the great way that Drew Brees plays.
Sorry to Ned, our resident Colts fan, for his team losing, but it was a great season, man. The Colts are in it every year. They will be again next year.
And every national columnist who says that this loss somehow "tarnishes Peyton Manning's legacy" gets a slap across the face. Seriously, both quarterbacks played well tonight. Manning threw one pick. You are allowed to throw one. If your defense plays well, and you play the way Manning played tonight, you usually win. Manning is still one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. Careerwise, better than Brees. Who is better right now, I must admit, I'm not sure.
Doug Farrar: Deal. You slap all the morons who inside that this tarnished Manning's legacy, and I'll whack the goons who will insist that Drew Brees wasn't truly great until this game. Most likely, it'll be a bunch of people who haven't really WATCHED him in detail until this game (after all, he was "the other guy" to Kurt Warner and Brett Favre in the playoffs). Well, welcome to reality, guys. Drew Brees is amazing. And he was before, too
Mike Tanier: I am not worried about an interception breaking Twitter. I am worried about a Super Bowl parade the week before Mardi Gras breaking New Orleans. AND I WISH I COULD GO.
What's the Special Teams DVOA going to look like for this game? Before you have an onside kick, you have 3 long field goals for the Saints, a long miss by Abe Vigoda, the typical non-punt returns by the Colts, a Colts kickoff return from 8 yards deep that winds up around the 8-yard line, and a long kickoff return by Roby.
Drew Brees' kid is wearing a headset. Is he the Patriots' new offensive coordinator?
The just showed Bourbon Street. I am afraid that Bushrod is going to flash people for beads.
Ned Macey: After our pregame Audibles went up, my brother called me to chastise me for the massive jinx I put on the Colts. I'm not sure he's going to speak to me for a month or so. Obviously, Aaron and Bill were right -- these teams were basically equal, so no reason to favor one over the other.
As for the game, I think all Colts fans after so many playoff failures are sort of immune to overreaction. The Saints made a couple more plays. The Colts offense played well throughout, but Manning got out-thought by Porter (very reminiscent play of the Samuel pick-6 against Harrison in the 2006 AFCG). The Colts could have won the game, but it didn't happen. Congrats to the Saints.
What surprised me is that the Saints managed to stay patient and take the underneath stuff, but I think Manning got a little impatient. On the drive that ended in the missed Stover FG (and asking a 62-year old man to kick a 51-yarder is a bit much), Manning went deep unecessarily. Quite simply, the Saints could not cover all those guys underneath, and Manning should have stayed patient. The Stover FG was a tough call -- team should have gone for six on third down and then either gone for it or had an easier field goal.
The onside kick was big, but it didn't really change the game, just got the Saints an extra possession. (My wife, however, is blaming Hank Baskett for the loss--we'll turn into "Kendra" for a full apology.) The Colts regained "momentum" and were driving with the lead in the fourth quarter. Really, the Colts stalled twice in the maroon zone, once returned for a TD.
Maybe someone else noted it, but did Powers get hurt? Brees just abused Jennings in the second half, and I think that was obviously a factor. Still, all credit to them because they were able to stay patient. I will note, however, that the Saints only two offensive TDs came on drives under 60 yards--bend but don't break is harder when you have less ground to cover.
Also, good work by Hartley who hit three long field goals that would have been good from 60. Pretty impressive to keep the Saints in it until their great fourth quarter.
Bonus points to the first writer who calls Manning a choker after the universal consensus was that Manning was suddenly the greatest QB ever when they assumed he'd win. I'll take Don Banks; he's usually good for that.
Bill Barnwell: Average Saints drive started from NO 32. Average Colts drive started from IND 16.
Mike Kurtz: The other thing to watch for is people who kinda knew about or didn't know about Brees jumping whole-hog onto the Brees bandwagon and trying to up their Brees-cred by trashing Manning.
Bill Barnwell: I guarantee nobody criticizes Peyton's move to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the end of the first half tomorrow. And that's just pathetic, because there sure were plenty of people criticizing it when it happened.
Vince Verhei: I think it was on Bill Simmons' show that Aaron said that if the Saints won, it would be via the big play. And that's really about that. Aside from the stop on fourth-and-goal, pretty much every big play went the Saints' way. The onside kick, the pick-six, the field goals they made, the field goal Indianapolis missed ... this may be a stupidly obvious thing to say, but it was basically a tie game if you take those out.
Rob Weintraub: Garcon's drop up 10-3 really turned the game around. He holds on to it, that's 20-40 yards depending on YAC, and Indy is almost assured at least three. So they maintain a two score lead, and they play much differently on D.
Having said that, the Saints made a lot of little, critical plays, like the wrestling match for the onside kick, stuffing the 3rd and short near the end of the half that forced the punt, and even denying Indy at the end to snuff the miracle finish. It's a cliche, but they did seem to want it more.
That's one of the best blocked games in recent memory. Both O-lines were tremendous, although the Colts had a couple of missed blocks on stretch plays/bubble screens that could have been big.
Bad moment for Phil Simms to declare himself with Easterbrook right before the Saints blitz and pick six. Great point by Nantz mentioning the injury to Hargrove threw Manning out of rhythm right before the pick. New stratagem to defense Manning?
I think we can all agree that everyone will have the Saints as favorites to win next season, and they almost assuredly won't--but so long as Brees is healthy they could another in the next three seasons.
Since I went and compared this game to Super Bowl XXXII beforehand, I was very bummed that Indy didn't punch it in to match the exact final of Broncos-Packers, 31-24.
And it seems appropriate the Saints win by virtue of nutting up and going for broke over the most conservative, risk-averse team in the league. Fortune favors the bold, or something.
Congrats to all my friends in NO, and the city itself--it's trite but it's also one of my favorite places on earth, and they deserve it.
Aaron Schatz: The funny thing is that we didn't quite know the Colts had a special teams advantage going into this game. During the regular season, as I pointed out in our preview, the Colts actually had better special teams value in our ratings this year, although it would be equal if we took out John Carney's performance as field-goal kicker in the first half of the year.
But in this game, as a couple of you surmised earlier, the difference was special teams. In fact, according to DVOA, that was the entire difference in this game. Before looking at these ratings, remember that DVOA does not consider the onside kick or the two-point conversion -- otherwise, the Saints' special teams rating would be higher. We also credit the Tracy Porter pick as an average interception return based on all interceptions of similar passes at that point on the field, so the Saints don't get "full credit" for the touchdown there.
Ned Macey: These numbers are thoroughly depressing. The only time the Colts have been thoroughly beaten in the past five years in the playoffs is the 2007 loss to SD. Otherwise, I believe they've been better on offense and defense (according to DVOA) in their other three playoff losses.
Anyway, I have a few more thoughts. Sorry if they're too late, too repetitive or not responsive. I haven't had the heart to read everyone else's comments.
I'd like to rethink my earlier diminishing of the onside kick. That kick didn't win the game or motivate the Saints because it showed they were aggressive (had they not recovered it, it would have been a symbol that Payton didn't trust his defense). Still, it was a huge play because if the Colts offense had scored (admittedly not a sure thing), the game would have been very different. The Colts were able to respond to the play, but it still very much changed the complexion of the game.
As for the Colts' defense, (this is now their third-worst performance in DVOA since 2005, with two of the three coming this year), Freeney obviously makes an enormous difference. He played at 85-90% in the first half, and the Colts defense looked good -- not great but good. In the second half, he had nothing, and Brees had all day. With Randle entering the HOF shorty after Derrick Thomas, the precedent for one-way players is made, and I think Freeney (assuming a couple more productive years) will join him some day. He just dictates how opposing offenses have to play, and the Colts aren't the same team without him (or with him diminished).
Finally, I think Payton/Williams deserve credit for leaving Greer on his side. I always think Payton is a bit of an over-thinker and thought with two weeks and with the Colts having such a clear # 1 who always lines up on the other side, they'd move Greer over there. Sometimes, you don't need to adjust to the other team. I think Porter, coming off a very hit-and-miss game against Minnesota, played well throughout and responded to the challenge. Plus, they could keep the one safety to that side and leave the other safety to play the middle of the field. I couldn't see how much help Porter got, but even before the Int, he was playing a heck of a game.
Aaron Schatz: When I was in the radio business a decade ago, we knew you don't put similar commercials back to back. Nobody at CBS thought, "Hmmm, maybe the two commercials about people wearing no pants should be split up?"
Will Carroll: Now we have two midget commercials back to back ... damn CBS!
Rob Weintraub: Best ad for me (didn't see all of them)--the Kia (I think) ad where the stuffed animals do Vegas.
Bill Barnwell: I was amazed at how well the Google ad stood out among all the overproduced junk. Simple and classy (e.g. no search for "motels in Paris" with "I'm Feeling Lucky", as my friend suggested) on a night full of bad puns.
Mike Kurtz: GoDaddy needs to be killed. With fire.
Also, the theme for the night's commercials seems to be "men are only real men if they're hideous jerks," which while sadly normal in our society, really got hammered in this Super Bowl's commercials. Very disappointing.
Vince Verhei: Loved the Doritos ads -- the four-year-old laying down the law to the paramour, and the Doritos samurai at the gym. I liked the house made of (full) beer cans. Leno and Letterman and Oprah sitting on a couch and sniping at each other was pretty funny. But on the whole, pretty disappointing. I was waiting for a Super Bowl-caliber "Too light/Too heavy" spot, but never got one.
Bill Barnwell: In all fairness, Doritos had an ad every break.
David Gardner: Tebow's ad was far less egregious than I expected. And I agree that the four-year-old in the doritos ad was the best. Also, the new E-Trade kid was funny for the first time. "Milkawhat?"
Vince Verhei: There I disagree. The E-Trade ads make me hate babies.
Bill Barnwell: As Vince sets the blogosphere alight. "Football Outsiders: We Hate Babies"
258 comments, Last at 14 Feb 2010, 8:52pm by tuluse