The Game, the Show, the Ads: Super Bowl XLIV Questions Answered
How did the Saints win?
By making all the plays they had to when they needed. Yes, that’s a simplistic explanation, but a valid one. Basically, the Saints made few, if any, mistakes.
They didn’t turn the ball over, surrendered hardly any big plays, and made three crucial plays that proved most critical in deciding the outcome: recovering the onside kick, converting a two-point conversion, and forcing Peyton Manning’s lone mistake in what was otherwise a sterling performance.
Offensively, Drew Brees was unstoppable after a slow start. Much like Manning’s performance against the Jets in the AFC title game, Brees analyzed the opposing defense for a few possessions, then set about attacking the weaknesses that inevitably were revealed.
Although the Saints' early possessions yielded no points, they also resulted in no turnovers. Once Brees figured out the Colts scheme, Indy could do very little to stop him with a fading pass rush and a zone defense that offered entirely too much cushion to the Saints receivers.
Defensively, the Saints never sacked Manning, but they did force him to move around in the pocket. Manning is superb at stepping forward in the pocket, but he was often made to move side to side and throw on the run. Despite an incredible throw to Dallas Clark while running to his right, Manning was, for the most part, uncomfortable having to move around in the pocket.
The Colts probably didn’t even see the Saints best defensive effort of the night. That came when Hall of Famer Len Dawson tried to deliver the Lombardi Trophy to the podium, and found his path blocked by an amorous group of Saints, each wanting to touch or kiss the trophy. In this case, “X’s and O’s” meant “hugs and kisses,” and not a play diagram.
Is the lengthy Super Bowl pre-game show a case of pure overkill?
Only the first three hours. Note to CBS: if you’re going to air four hours of pregame, you really have to dazzle me with fancy graphics and in-depth analysis, plus statistical data to support the opinions of your fine studio team.
Or, you could just have Bill Cowher and Shannon Sharpe face off in a tongue-twister reciting contest. Gracious! I never thought I’d need subtitles for an English-language broadcast. I’ve heard better English in a Godzilla movie. God forbid Frank Caliendo ever moves to CBS. Cowher and Sharpe would be dead.
But at least the Fox pre-game crew would finally see a much-needed requiem from Caliendo’s dead-on ridicule.
What about the vocal artistry of Queen Latifah and Carrie Underwood, who sang “America The Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” respectively, before the game?
That was “America The Beautiful?” I guess it’s official now-the Queen can’t rap or sing. But that’s okay. Ever since Marvin Gaye sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at the 1993 NBA All Star game, I’ve found that I really don’t mind when singers “funk up” patriotic anthems. Nothing says “respect for the flag” like being able to dirty dance to your country’s anthems.
Anyway, one thing’s for sure—if ever The Aretha Franklin Story movie is made, Latifah has the inside track to the lead role.
As for Underwood, her rendition of the National Anthem was tighter than her white pants suit. It was so good it evoked fireworks, something Tony Romo, apparently, never could do for her.
Whose fault was the Colts fateful turnover—Peyton Manning’s or Reggie Wayne’s?
That’s a play Manning and Wayne have executed successfully, in practice and games, thousands of times. This time, however, one or both of them erred.
My guess is that Manning should have thrown the ball just inches from the ground, where only Wayne could have caught it. Even with Tracy Porter reading the play to perfection, he wouldn’t have been able to make the pick with the pass thrown that low.
By no means was it the worst pass thrown in Super Bowl history (Neil O’Donnell’s got the top three in that category); in fact, it wasn’t a bad pass by Manning. Nor was there anything wrong with Wayne’s route. Porter just made a better read on a quarterback known for almost always making the better read.
What was the turning point of the game?
It would be convenient to say the Saints recovery of an onside kick to start the second half was the pivotal point of the game. Sure, the Saints subsequently scored a touchdown to take a 13-10 lead, but the Colts responded on their next possession to retake the lead.
If there was, in fact, a change of momentum with the onside kick, then the Colts changed in right back.
Sean Payton’s challenge of a failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter was the true turning point. Had the officials’ call on the field stood, the Saints would have held only a five-point lead as opposed to a seven-point lead.
With a seven-point cushion, the Saints defense had a little more leeway to gamble, with the mindset that even if the Colts scored to tie, New Orleans offense would have had plenty of time to score. Gregg Williams gambled with a blitz on third and five, and Tracy Porter gambled by stepping in front of Manning’s pass to Reggie Wayne.
Of course, it can be argued that the turning point occurred when the Colts, holding a 10-3 lead, stopped the Saints on fourth down late in the second quarter. Sure, had the Colts won, this goal-line stand would have been praised as the turning point. However, as it turned out, this could have been the moment when the game shifted in New Orleans favor.
After taking possession, the Colt chose to run three times, and had to punt, the field position from which allowed the Saints to cash in a late field goal. Had the Colts tried to score, or at least tried to pick up a first down, the Saints likely would not have got the ball back at all .
Yes, the Colts were backed up in their own territory, but their unwillingness to take a chance led to the Saints taking the ultimate gamble with the onside kick.
Is Drew Brees the most deserving Super Bowl MVP in history?
If Brees wasn’t eligible for sainthood already, he certainly is now. He’s not going to Disneyworld; he’s going to heaven.
And it was downright precious to see Brees holding his infant son as the wild celebration took place around them. The child was mesmerized by the raining confetti and the general spectacle of it all. Of course, the kid will be disappointed as hell at his next birthday party—nothing will ever live up to the Super Bowl celebration.
It was kind of cool that the baby was wearing giant headphones—it almost looked like a scene from The Hangover .
What were the best commercials?
Leave it to Super Bowl Sunday to treat viewers to ads featuring beer, men without pants, and an appeal from pro-life supporters. Luckily, those ads didn’t appear in succession, otherwise a Minnesota Vikings cruise on Lake Minnetonka may have broken out.
McDonalds ad featuring LeBron James and Dwight Howard in a slam dunk contest with the victor winning James’ value meal. The dunks were spectacular, and clearly weren’t performed by James and Howard without some computer wizardry (or Vince Carter serving as body double).
In the end, Larry Bird steals the show, and the meal, proving that even now, as he did in his playing days, he can make black men look like chumps.
Bud Light’s “Autotune” ad, in which four friends herald the presence of Bud Light by magically speaking in Autotuned voices. Autotune may have ruined radio, but it can’t ruin beer ads. That is, unless Jamie Foxx becomes a spokesman for Bud Light.
Anyway, rapper T-Pain closes the ad by saying “Pass the guacamole” in his familiar Autotune voice, which may even be his real voice now. Hey, you have to love Autotune—now, people who have lost their voice boxes to tobacco abuse can have legitimate hopes for a career in music.
Careerbuilder.com’s “Casual Friday” commercial: An employee is stunned to see the lengths to which “Casual Friday” privileges are extended at his place of work. His fellow employees cavort about the office in nothing more than underwear, much to his chagrin and disgust.
You want to know how reporter Lisa Olson felt in the Patriots locker room back in 1985? Watch this commercial, and picture the employees naked.
Skechers “Shape-ups” shoes ad: Skechers can afford a Super Bowl ad? That’s a big surprise. An even bigger surprise: hearing the words, “Hi. I’m Joe Montana for Shape-ups.” Say it ain’t so, Joe? Wow, you’re the celebrity spokesman for Skechers?
Peyton Manning should watch his back. Montana must be walking proud, and I bet he’s doing so with the most sculpted calves of his lifetime.
Focus On The Family’s pro-life ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mother Pam: I’m not one to take a political stance, especially concerning Super Bowl commercials, so I won’t. But doesn’t it seem odd that in a commercial about such serious subject matter, the climax of the ad is Tebow tackling his mother? Who conceived and conceptualized this commercial? Saturday Night Live ?
Hey Tim, way to hammer home your message with biblical precision and humor. Guess what, Tebow, most NFL personnel directors are “pro-choice;” if the true pro fessionals, they won’t make you their choice in the draft.
On the bright side, “Tebow’s mom” has now replaced “Stiffler’s mom” in the lexicon of American Pie -ish terms for cougar-ish women. Pam, I’m proud that you birthed your boy Tim. But don’t get all righteous about it. Olivia Manning’s spit out more NFL quarterbacks than you ever will.
The Late Show ad: David Letterman and Jay Leno sandwich Oprah Winfrey on the couch at a Super Bowl party? Cue the 1970’s porno music! Again, Conan O’Brien’s left out of all the fun.
Hyundai ad with Brett Favre as 2020 NFL MVP: Probably the most unrealistic ad of the night—there’s no way the MVP trophy will have a hologram a mere 10 years from now.
Snickers commercial featuring Betty White and Abe Vigoda: Probably the best ad of the night. All it lacked was Phyllis Diller. Snickers really satisfies, and if it can truly cause such a transformation in a football player, then maybe there is hope for the St. Louis Rams.
Monster.com’s fiddling beaver: Hey Monster.com, just answer me one thing. Where’d you find this fiddling beaver? Wait, I know! A fiddling beaver hunt!
TruTV’s “Punxsutawney Polamalu:” a pint-sized Troy Polamalu is yanked from a hole and sees his shadow, indicating six more weeks of football in the form of TruTv’s “NFL Full Contact.” Little known fact: Polamalu also played the mini-Gene Simmons in the Dr. Pepper Snapple Kiss commercial. And I believe he injured his knee.
In this show, TruTV goes behind the scenes of NFL games to give viewers what they don’t see on game broadcasts. Finally, fans find out where all that profanity comes from that is inadvertently aired during real games.
Best quotes: It’s a tie. Mike Ditka saying “That’s fresh” in the Boost Mobile shuffle, and Jim Nantz with “Change out of that skirt, Jason” to a henpecked boyfriend shopping with his lady in a FloTV ad.
How was the halftime show?
As halftime shows that I didn’t watch go, it was pretty darn good. From what I hear, The Who really seemed to really give their all, and played like a band earning in 30 minutes what it would normally take three hours to make. And really, what says “American football” like a band from London jamming in Miami. That’s like Jimmy Buffett playing halftime at the World Cup final.
Come on, NFL. Give us some entertainment we really want to see. How about some magic? You could easily get David Blaine, or another more likeable magician, to perform tricks at halftime. Want to see Darrelle Revis pulled from a magician's hat, or better yet, Chad Ochocinco's jock strap? Want Brett Favre to disappear? Ta da! It’s done. Want a new collective bargaining agreement to appear ? Forget it. No magician is that good.
How will the Super Bowl loss affect Peyton Manning’s legacy?
A win would have silenced his critics for good. Now, he’ll have to answer to his not-so impressive playoff record. And he’ll do so graciously. What’s the worst thing about having only one Super Bowl ring? That’s how many Eli has.
Manning will win at least one more Super Bowl, which will easily cement his status as the greatest quarterback of all time.
Can the Colts and Saints repeat their 2009 success in 2010?
The Colts will easily return to the playoffs, and the Super Bowl loss will send Manning on a mission to become even better. He’ll know defenses so well, he could play middle linebacker for most teams.
With Anthony Gonzalez back, Indy will have an even more dynamic passing attack, and if Joseph Addai remains healthy, he’ll have plenty of room to run against defenses geared to stop the pass.
Defensively, the Colts could use some meat in the middle of their defensive line. And a cornerback with single-coverage ability is also needed. The Colts probably can’t afford a big-name free agent, but their personnel men will find suitable alternatives.
You heard it here first: the Colts win Super Bowl XLV. Over the Cowboys. In Dallas.
Can the Saints repeat as world champions? Neaux dice. The NFC South always seems to be a volatile division, so it's no guarantee the Saints can even repeat as South champs. Even if the Saints make the playoffs next year, there's no guarantee that two opposing superstar quarterbacks will again throw timely interceptions, thus paving the way for another Saints title run.
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