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ALTERNATE UNIVERSE: Saints Fans Still Blame Super Bowl Loss On Botched Onside Kick
NEW ORLEANS – Nearly four full years after losing Super Bowl XLIV, long-suffering New Orleans fans are still pointing to the failed onside kick attempt at the beginning of the second half as the reason the Saints lost the championship game to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
“What the hell was he thinking?” said Lafayette native Jackie Ross, in reference to former Saints head coach Sean Payton. “It’s the biggest game in our franchise’s history, and he called for on onside kick? Didn’t he realize how rarely those succeed? Or what a huge momentum shift they cause when you give the opponent possession at midfield like that? Dammit, that was such a dumb move!”
“I thought we had a chance to take control of the game,” said Payton, currently a color analyst with the NFL network. “In hindsight, it obviously didn’t pay off. But that’s just one of those calls where, if you make it, you’re a genius, and if you don’t, you’re a moron. So I guess I’m a moron.”
The game had been close to that point, with the Colts holding on to a slim 10-6 lead at the end of the second quarter. But after the Colts recovered the ill-conceived kick to start the second half, Manning wasted no time in hitting Reggie Wayne on the very next play for a 48 yard touchdown pass that seemed to deflate the entire New Orleans sideline. The Colts rolled to an easy 41-9 victory, and Manning was named the game’s MVP after throwing for over 400 yards and five touchdowns, four of which came in the second half at the expense of CB Tracy Porter.
“We thought we were in the game, up until that stupid kick,” recalled LB Jonathan Vilma. Then Coach Payton tried to get cute, and it burned us. I think from that point on, we all just felt like the game was a lost cause.”
“That was such a crushing blow,” said diehard Saints supporter Manny Bellows of Patterson, LA. “For decades, this team had been among the worst, maybe even THE worst team in the NFL. Then, finally, they make it all the way to the Super Bowl, and they blow it because of one gimmick play. To this day, the franchise still hasn’t recovered from that idiotic stunt.”
Indeed, New Orleans fell into a post-defeat funk that has lingered ever since. Payton was fired as coach after back-to-back 3-13 seasons in 2010 and 2011, and his replacement, Joe Vitt, hasn’t fared any better.
The Colts meanwhile, celebrated their second Super Bowl in four seasons, and Manning solidified his reputation as one of the sport’s greatest clutch QB’s. When team doctors recommended that he sit out the 2011 season to allow his injured neck to heal, Manning famously responded, “Ah screw it, I’ll just retire. With these two rings, I have nothing left to prove anyway.”
“I envy him,” said Denver QB Drew Brees, who bolted from the sinking Saints franchise to join the Broncos as a free agent when his contract expired in 2012. “Winning a Super Bowl must be just about the greatest feeling in the world. I still think we might’ve had a chance to experience that joy ourselves, if not for that goddamn onside kick.”