The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts played a tight first half of football in Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010.
The Colts came out and played well early, scoring the game’s first 10 points. They held the Saints' powerful offense in check, allowing only two Garrett Hartley field goals in the first half. At halftime, the Colts were up by a score of 10-6.
It was clear the Saints needed something to get them going, and head coach Sean Payton felt the team needed an extra possession coming into the game because of the Colts' high-flying attack.
No one saw the onside kick coming.
Payton couldn’t find what he was looking for in a fake punt in the first half and resorted to the onside kick to start the second half. It is clear that Payton was desperate coming out of the tunnel and wanted to do everything in his power to win the ballgame.
He made the decision and advised his team in the locker room that it was to start the second half with the “ambush” play.
The officials came out for the second-half kickoff and set up the ball on the tee, but Payton didn’t like how the ball was going to be kicked toward the Colts sideline.
He didn’t want the scrum on the Colts sideline. He asked the officials to change the side of the field his team would defend starting the third quarter, ensuring that the kick would be recovered near his bench.
Rookie punter Thomas Morstead made the perfect onside kick. Saints safety Chris Reis initially looked to recover the ball, but there was a gigantic pile of players. It was 63 seconds before the decision came that Reis did indeed recover the ball.
The recovery seemed to energize the Saints. Six plays later, they scored their first touchdown of the game on a 16-yard screen pass to running back Pierre Thomas.
The call for the onside kick is one of the gutsiest and ballsiest decisions in Super Bowl history. If the onside kick had been recovered by the Colts, it would have been an enormous blow to the Saints.
However, destiny was on the Saints' side, as they recovered the kick, and New Orleans rode the emotional wave to a 31-17 upset victory over the Indianapolis Colts to win Super Bowl XLIV.