Too bad Payton can’t be MVP of Super Bowl
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP National Writer
MIAMI — Sean Payton strolled through the New Orleans Saints locker room at halftime, pausing at Thomas Morstead’s locker with a simple message.
“We’re doing it,” the coach said.
Morstead, the Saints’ punter and kickoff specialist, knew exactly what Payton meant. New Orleans was planning an onside kick the rookie had been working on less than two weeks, a bounder he tries to “bend like Beckham.”
“I wasn’t too worried,” Morstead quipped. “Just terrified.”
No team in Super Bowl history had ever attempted such a daring play until they were in desperation of the fourth quarter. But this is nothing out of the ordinary for Payton.
“He plays to win the game,” linebacker Scott Fujita said. “I knew we were going to get it.”
Payton made all the right calls Sunday night — even one that didn’t look so good at first, well, it turned out just fine. Thanks in large part to his bravado, the Saints won the first Super Bowl title in their franchise’s largely dismal history, beating that other Peyton — you know, Manning — and the Indianapolis Colts 31-17.
Payton will go down in Super Bowl lore for calling an onside kick at the start of the second half, the first time one had been attempted before the final period. The Saints recovered and drove down for a touchdown that put them ahead for the first time, 13-10.
“We were going to be aggressive,” Payton said.
Near the end of the first half, with his team trailing 10-3, Payton decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from just outside the 1 instead of kicking a chip-shot field goal. When Pierre Thomas was stuffed for no gain, it looked as though Payton might be remembered for a big blunder.
But the Colts couldn’t do much, backed up against their own end zone, and were forced to punt it away. The Saints took over at their 48 with 35 seconds left — enough time to get back in position for Garrett Hartley, who knocked through a 44-yard field goal on the final play of the half, making sure Manning didn’t get it back.
Payton, it turned out, didn’t want Manning to have it at the start of the third quarter, either.
After The Who finished rockin’ the halftime show and the teams returned from the locker room, Morstead made sure to practice one deep kickoff, just to make sure the Colts wouldn’t suspect anything was up. Then he teed it up for real, moving forward slowly as if he was going to swing his right foot into the ball like any other deep kickoff.
Suddenly, the pigskin was hopping along the ground, headed toward Hank Baskett. The ball took a quirky bounce and ricocheted off the chest of the Colts receiver, setting off a mad scramble that took more than a minute to sort out. Finally, the officials made their call.
Saints ball. Jonathan Casillas was given credit for the recovery, but Morstead said it was actually third-string safety Chris Reis who got it.
Whatever the case, it was someone in a white jersey.
“I don’t know if they caught us by surprise, but they got it,” Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. “It gave them some momentum they needed going into the second half.”
With the Colts back in front 17-16 and the game getting deep in the fourth quarter, Drew Brees directed a nine-play, 59-yard drive that finished with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey. The next call was a no-brainer, go for 2 in hopes of making it a seven-point game.
Brees threw a low pass toward Lance Moore, who bobbled the ball before regaining control right at the goal line. The official immediately ruled incomplete, but Payton wasn’t going to take that for an answer. No doubt aided by his assistants upstairs who had a look at the replay, the coach decided to challenge the call.
If the referee had ruled against New Orleans, it would have cost them a potentially crucial timeout in a tight game. But the replay showed that Moore did have control and barely got across the line for a 24-17 lead instead of 22-17.
Payton pumped his fists, celebrating another decision that went his way.
Tracy Porter clinched it for the Saints with a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown, and Payton was reticent about accepting any praise.
“It’s really a credit to everyone, these players here,” he said. “They carried out the plan.”
But, as the final seconds ticked off, those players sought out their coach.
Payton was lifted into the air and hauled to the middle of the field above everyone else.