Sean Payton went into Super Bowl XLIV knowing that he wanted to steal another possession from Peyton Manning’s explosive aerial attack. Of course, Sean Payton wanted to be known for being gutsy on the world’s biggest stage, but he knew that Saints couldn’t match Manning blow for blow in this match-up. The gutsy, brilliant, Bill Parcells disciple, needed a plan.
His evil plan was set in motion during Super Bowl halftime, and the plan was called: Ambush. This play would rely on the rookie Thomas Morstead’s shoulders. Morstead’s job was to kick an onside kick, on the first kickoff of the second half. Plus the rarely successful onside kick attempt was coming against Peyton Manning’s team that was winning on the biggest stage of his career.
If Morstead messed up, he would’ve received the torch from the media, on top of the Colts taking the ball at midfield and probably scoring to go up 17-6. He knew all these implications were on the line when he said his famous quote about the play, “I’m not scared, I’m terrified”.
Morstead sat down with Saints Home and talked about a few thoughts leading up the “Ambush” play. He said how backup kicker, John Carney, would say “T-Mo, hit it 10%” before an onside kick attempt in practice. Morstead broke the huddle and Morstead recalls how John Carney was the last person he saw, and he said John Carney told him “ T-mo, 1%”.
Morstead approached the ball to take the gusty onside kick, and boom! The football hit Colts’ Hank Baskett and popped of his shoulder pads into a Saints uniform. There was a long scramble and fight for the ball at the bottom of the pile. After several players are pulled from the pile and the referee has a clear view, there’s one player left with the football: Saints unheralded safety/special teamer, Chris Reis.
Sean Payton had the genius play call, Thomas Morstead delivered, and Super Bowl hero, Chris Reis scoops up the ball to give Drew Brees another possession. Saints march down the field to score off, courtesy of a Pierre Thomas screen pass. Then of course Saints corner, Tracy Porter clinched the Colts hopes with a pick six off a forced, unnecessary Peyton Manning throw.
Drew Brees went on to win Super Bowl MVP for the Saints team. Sean Payton even gets his slice of the pie for his credit in calling the gutsy play call, “ambush”. Indeed, ambush was the biggest play of Super Bowl XLIV. However, let’s not forget the player who delivered on the biggest play on the biggest stage: Saints humble punter, Thomas Morstead.