Saints Win Super Bowl, but Onside Kick Was Dirty Pool

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Saints Win Super Bowl, but Onside Kick Was Dirty Pool
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ah, what could take away the joy of watching two great quarterbacks duel it out in a Super Bowl, having a snack at half-time anticipating seeing Peyton Manning and the Colts drive down field with the first second-half possession after making their usual adept adjustments during the break?

Dirty pool by Sean Payton, in the form of an onside kick to start the second half, could take away that joy.

When the Saints won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball to start the game, they made their choice. The other team gets to receive the ball to start the second half, but the Colts never received the ball. It was stolen from them on a cheap and dirty onside kick.

Although it was a legal play by existing NFL rules, there has always been an unwritten rule, a gentleman's rule that you do not attempt an onside kick to start a half.

At any other time on a kickoff, fine, but when you win the coin toss, you only get to receive the ball to start a half once. You don't get to break the rack in nine-ball 2 times in a row.

That would be greedy.  

While many see Sean Payton's gamble as a tribute to his genius and will hail him for his aggressiveness, I see it as blemish on an otherwise respectable game between two evenly-matched teams.

To be a true champion, you play the game between the lines. There is no need to resort to cheap tricks. Let there be no mistake: the Saints outplayed the Colts and deserved to win for the most part.

I say for "the most part" because the game was in the balance until late in the fourth quarter. During Sean Payton's Monday morning news conference on NFL network, he appeared humble.

Perhaps he felt somewhere inside that his decision did not need to be made to win, but since it had been made, a lot of people will forever associate this game and him as a coach with that play. 

As I see it, the play did not determine the ultimate outcome. It could be argued by some that it greatly affected the outcome.

If the Colts had received a regular kickoff, and they had scored a TD, it would have been 17-6 Colts rather than the 13-10 Saints that it did indeed become when the Saints drove the field.

That does not mean that the Colts would have won.

The Saints could have mounted a comeback. After all, they showed that they had the greater will to win, the greater hunger to lift the Lombardi trophy.

Was it really a gamble by Payton?

With the Colts adeptness at making half-time adjustments, it was looming pretty large that they were going to drive for a touchdown on their first second-half possession.

If the Colts were likely to score anyway, gambling on an onside kick that could have given the Colts the ball at the Saints own 40-yard line didn't really have that much downside anyway.

Finally, there is the question of who actually recovered the ball. The ball bounced around a few times and led to one of the ugliest and worst regulated scrums in NFL history.

The officials did very little to pull players off the pile. Small fights were breaking out at the sides without flags being thrown. The last we saw of the ball on replays it was between the legs of one prone Saints player and Hank Baskett was diving on top of it.

Is this what we want in a Super Bowl?

To throw scraps of food into the air of a courtyard and watch wild dogs go at it. The onside was not only a blemish on the game for being a cheap and dirty parlor trick. It was also a blemish because it was not a clean play. It was not a clean recovery of a live ball. Is that what we wish to see in the NFL on its greatest stage?

I think not.

My proposal then is that the NFL needs to make a rule change to prevent what happened in Sunday's Super Bowl between the Colts and the Saints from ever occurring again.

Starting next season, an onside kick may be attempted on any kickoff except for those starting a half. There's no point in having a coin toss if the team that wins it can decide, "Screw it! We are going to take the ball to start the second half too."

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