February 07, 2010
There's a fine line between recklessness and brilliance. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has been walking it in Super Bowl XLIV.
Thirty minutes after his brazen decision to go for a goal-line fourth down at the end of the first half cost his team three points, Payton opened the second half with an onside kick. Indianapolis Colts special teams player Hank Baskett(notes) mishandled the ball twice and Chris Reis(notes) of the Saints came up with the ball in a wild scrum. It took officials a full minute to award New Orleans possession.
Six plays later, Drew Brees(notes) threw a short screeen to Pierre Thomas(notes), who scampered into the end zone from 16 yards out. The touchdown gave the Saints a 13-10 lead, the team's first of the game.
It was one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history. Indianapolis wasn't at all prepared for the kick and the Saints took advantage. Just plays after his brash play calling hurt the Saints, Payton's bold decision changed the tenor of the game.
Super Bowls are usually defined by conservative pay. It rarely pays for coaches to be risky in the game. Little good can come from it. Nobody criticizes the safe play, only the bold one that doesn't work. But when it works, it's the stuff from which Super Bowl legends are made.
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