Payton should have been the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV.
Now before you freak out, please read that sentence again. P-A-Y-T-O-N. I am talking about Sean Payton the coach of the Saints. I know there is no way the coach can receive the award for Most Valuable Player, but the guy was absolutely phenomenal in his play calling. Although I predicted the Colts would win in my last post, and I wish the other Peyton were receiving MVP honors, I know how to give credit where it is due.
Sean Payton took the Super Bowl to a whole new level. I hope coaches across the league were taking notes on how to trust your players, prepare, and leave everything on the field. (all the while doing it with major style). We are going to be hard pressed to have another game like Sunday. This was one of those games we will hear about year after year. It will forever be referenced, and in ten years we will all be watching the re-run on ESPN Classics for the umpteenth time.
My mother grew up in Indianapolis where my grandparents had season tickets from the time the Colts arrived in the middle of the night, until 2000. My grandma now lives in Utah, but is the most die-hard Colts fan I have met. As a matter of fact, my Grandma knows more about sports than most guys. I considered it a special treat to go to her house on Sunday and watch our team play on the biggest stage. You never know when your team will be playing at the end of the season, and how often do you get to spend it with Grandma? We had our treats and watched the game. We agonized together over the defeat.
I have talked to quite a few people over the last couple of days who are convinced the game changer was when the Saints picked off Peyton and ran it back for a 74 yard touchdown. Their point is valid, but the true game changer came when the Saints opened up the second half with an onside kick. At that moment Sean Payton was either a hero or an idiot. In this case he chiseled his own name in the NFL history books as absolutely brilliant; extremely gutsy, but brilliant. Before that moment, he decided to go for it on fourth and one but came up short. The Colts thought they could take the time off the clock and head to the locker room with a good lead. Instead, they couldn’t convert and gave up another three points. Not one game changing moment, but a number of them.
So how did Sean Payton pull off the win? How did he keep the best quarterback (sorry Drew Bress fans, but Manning is the best right now) from scoring? It’s like asking how you keep Michael Jordan from turning the driving lane into a freeway.
Saints fans will tell you it was Brees’ brilliant passes under pressure. Yeah. Okay. With the Colts playing so far off the receivers it would have been hard not to hit so many completions. Colts fans will tell you it was because of injuries, with the biggest being Dwight Freeney’s ankle. Good argument, but still not the answer.
The only way Sean Payton was able to win that game was by keeping Peyton Manning off the field. It is as simple as that. The gutsy calls were made to prevent Peyton from even seeing green. The only way Peyton can’t score is by not being allowed to throw a pass, drop three steps or hand the ball to his backfield. There was a stretch of 70+ minutes, real time, in which Peyton Manning did not get on the field. For a quarterback it is an eternity. Peyton was antsy. He wanted to be out there, but it seemed like every time he stood up he just had to sit down again. Not even getting a chance at three and out. How do you win against Peyton? Don’t give him a chance to play.
Of course, I am sad the Colts didn’t have another championship to celebrate on Sunday. I do feel like I watched one of the best Super Bowl games I have ever seen. I also find great comfort in knowing it was not the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, or the Steelers. My wish for next season is for both teams to have outstanding runs and meet again. If they can put on another show like they did this past weekend, I am going to pay ridiculous amounts of money and watch it in person.
So there it is. Sean Payton. Super Bowl MVP.
Just as a side note: in my opinion, the days of great Super Bowl commercials and halftime shows are dead. At least with The Who, we know there won’t be any wardrobe malfunctions. Well . . . we hope not.
Logan Millard works and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Aside from his full time job, he works for the Utah Jazz as a media relations coordinator on game nights, and also helps Fox Soccer Channel when they are in town.