MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. --
• Another year, another superb Super Bowl. Did you ever think we'd say that after the first three decades-plus of the game's 44-year history? The first-time Super Bowl-qualifying Saints, dazed and down 10-0 in the first quarter, got off the mat in historic fashion, beating a Colts team that had owned the fourth quarter all season.
But Indy's seven fourth-quarter comeback wins, and
• It's got to hurt a little more for Colts fans that Saints hero
• He didn't start all that strongly, but nobody ever played a better final three quarters in a Super Bowl than Saints quarterback and Super Bowl MVP
That's a mind-numbing display of excellence in the biggest game of his nine-year NFL career. Brees finished 32 of 39 overall, for 288 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 114.5 passer rating. He tied
• What a well-played game that was. Manning's pick was the only turnover all night, and the penalties were few and far between. It wasn't quite the shootout we all expected, but it was crisp, pure football, for the most part. And the Saints winning was no fluke. No
The Saints' comeback from an early 10-0 hole matched Washington's rally against Denver in 1988 for the largest comeback from a first-quarter deficit in Super Bowl history.
• Give him this:
• I wrote on Friday about how
Stover, 42, became the oldest player in Super Bowl history. But he hasn't made a field goal of longer than 49 yards since 2006, when he was still a Baltimore Raven. Stover was a fine replacement this season for the injured
• You can't say
All in all, Brees had a clean pocket to work with most of the night, and he responded with a Super Bowl-record 32 completions. Though many thought defensive lineman
• This just put an end to any remaining debate about the team of the decade in the NFL. It's New England. The Colts had a case to make with a win tonight, given their 10 years of excellence in the regular season. But one Super Bowl win in the 2000s merely makes them the Atlanta Braves of the NFL.
All you folks who wrote and talked about Indy being crowned a dynasty with a win over the Saints, don't you feel a little silly? You should. That's why you can't jump the gun on the dynasty spiel. You just have to let it happen, and when it does, everybody knows what a real dynasty looks like.
• How clutch was kicker
Stover, in turn, made a 36-yarder in the first quarter but was totally upstaged by Hartley, who's all of 23.
• A record four MVP trophies are great, but that was the most crushing loss of Manning's 12-year NFL career. It's silly to try to sum up the legacy question with Manning having so many years left to play, but losing this one is going to be a failure that re-starts talk of him not being his best once the NFL's postseason starts.
• Weird, weird Super Bowl in the first half. Colts dominated the first quarter, rolling up 10 points and 154 yards on a pair of 11-play drives. Indy had more points in the first quarter (10) than the Saints ran offensive plays (nine).
Then the Saints answered, dominating the second quarter almost as completely as Indy did in the first. New Orleans had 143 yards of their 179 total first-half yards in the second quarter, and scored on those Hartley field goals of 46 and 44 yards. The Colts had just 15 yards in the second quarter, on six plays. Indy held the ball just 2:34 in the quarter, compared to 12:26 for the Saints.
• The Saints have been hurt before by their lack of a short-yardage running game, but never more than on the first-and-goal drive in the second quarter -- when three consecutive running plays failed to produce a touchdown.
I still like Payton's decision to go for the touchdown on that possession, because you're not going to beat the Colts scoring field goals. Not going to happen.
That said, it was very curious to see Payton call three consecutive runs inside the 10. I would have let Brees throw the ball at least once, maybe twice in that goal-line situation.
• Have to admit, if you knew New Orleans would hold Indy to just 10 points in the first half, you would have loved its chances to win the game. As disastrous as their first quarter was, the Saints recovered after having the wind knocked out of them by the Colts offense. Impressive response by a first-time Super Bowl team, because many times a start like this ultimately leads to a 37-13 loss.
The most impressive thing about the Saints' win was how they held things together after getting their teeth kicked in in the game's opening 15 minutes.
• That was a killer drop by Colts receiver
• The one thing the Saints absolutely, positively didn't want to let happen in the first quarter happened: The Colts started the game with a pair of 11-play scoring drives. Indy's offense was clinic-like, slicing up New Orleans for seven gains of at least 11 yards. Besides Garcon's 19-yard touchdown catch, the plays that seemed to work best involved
The 26-yard gain was Addai's longest run this season, and the Colts' 96-yard touchdown march was their longest drive of the season. It also tied a Super Bowl record for the longest scoring drive, equaling a Bears 96-yard march against the outmatched Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
And to think his Colts were up 10-6 at the time.
• Don't know what the crowd split was when it comes to Saints versus Colts fans, but I do know this: Saints fans clearly made more noise when the Colts were on offense than Colts fans did when the Saints had the ball. Not that it seemed to matter. Indy was relentless on third downs, when the New Orleans fans were the loudest. Nothing ever perturbs Peyton.
• For all the pre-airing hype and controversy, I thought the
• Now, that
• You know it's been a quiet week at the Super Bowl when it takes an analyst for the NFL Network to create the only real distraction. It wasn't exactly on par with the
Nice week for the NFL Network, eh?
• If you're wondering, this was the latest Super Bowl ever played calendar-wise. Feb. 7 is the new standard for an NFL season that seems to never really end. The first 35 Super Bowls were all January affairs, but eight of the past nine have been in February. And when the league moves to an 18-game regular-season -- and that's when, not if -- I think we're looking at a Super Bowl played on Presidents' Day weekend.
When I was looking all this up, I was stunned to see that Super Bowl XI (Raiders-Vikings in the Rose Bowl) was played Jan. 9, 1977. Just for comparison sake, this postseason, the first day of the first-round games were played on Jan. 9.
• The looming labor situation in the NFL is going to dominate much of the coverage as 2010 continues to unfold, but I think we all know that we're a long way from any sort of new collective bargaining agreement. I'd be shocked if anything significant in the way of progress toward a deal is made before 2011, when there finally will be a real deadline in play.
We know this too: NFL Players Association Executive Director
• Banning the three-point stance in the NFL seems like a common-sense step toward at least lessening the damage done by concussions every season. I imagine one day we'll look back and wonder why no one thought of making that the rather-easy move long ago.
• More than anyone else, NFL players trust fellow NFL players. So whenever a coach is hired around the league, his new players get on the phone and check him out even before meeting him. Like Saints linebacker
"I knew his rep a little bit,'' Fujita told me last week. "When I heard we hired him, I called (Redskins defensive end)