We all know what happened that evening when the New Orleans Saints raised the Lombardi Trophy high after defeating the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl 44. Much of the Saints’ success was attributed to the insane onside kick coach Sean Payton called to start the second half.
So, what if New Orleans never recovered that gutsy call for an onside kick to start the second half? Well for the starters, the Saints would not have had as dominating of a win over the Peyton Manning-led Colts.
Indianapolis looked unstoppable in the first quarter when Manning led his team down the field multiple times to the tune of 154 yards of offense, resulting in 10 points. For many teams, this type of prolific offense in the first quarter alone would bode well for a victory. But this was the 2009 Saints team, no one was going to stand in their way. Much like the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, this team seemingly had God on their side.
After the jitters subsided, New Orleans came out strong the second quarter as they began to get their their feet underneath them. Soon they returned to their 2009 season defining form by getting back to basics, quickly utilizing the Drew Brees - Marques Colston connection. Unfortunately, the aggressive goal-line play calling by the Saints at the end of the second quarter resulted in Indianapolis heading to the locker at halftime with a 10-6 lead.
Then the unthinkable happened. Payton fearlessly called the onside kick to start the second half and New Orleans recovered. This is where many believe the momentum changed in the Saints favor and it would never return to the Colts. New Orleans would end up winning Super Bowl 44 with a score of 31-17 even with Manning at the helm of the Colts. So, what would have happened if the Saints had never recovered the onside kick?
Manning would have been given the opportunity to lead his team down the field for for more points. The Colts were already leading 10-6 and any additional points from an opening drive would have kept Indianapolis ahead by a minimum of a touchdown. By recovering an onside kick, Manning was forced to remain on the sidelines for nearly an hour, effectively destroying any momentum the quarterback and his offense had remaining from the first half.
Any team in the NFL will tell you that playing from behind has its distinct challenges compared to playing from ahead. Even when Manning hadn’t thrown a ball for an entire hour he still led his team down to a touchdown at the first opportunity despite the onside recovery to make the score 17-13 Colts. But what if he did that at the start of the half? A 17-6 score without the momentum of an onside recovery and subsequent touchdown would have seemed insurmountable.
Without the onside kick recovery the Saints would have continued to play from behind well throughout the second-half as the opening drive would never have resulted in the Pierre Thomas touchdown to put the team ahead 13-10. It is incredibly likely that Manning would have continued to lead his team that was already ahead, and their confidence would have never been broken.
Without the onside kick recovery, the Colts would have likely won Super Bowl 44.
What do you think would have happened if the Saints never recovered the onside kick? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @KadeKistner.