Will Super Bowl XLIV be Peyton's Place or Payton's Place?
It's Peyton Manning vs. Sean Payton.
For that we should be thankful for one important reason: It means a passing team, one of those finesse teams people love to criticize, will win a Super Bowl.
|The Saints are going to their first Super Bowl thanks to Sean Payton and his offensive acumen. (Getty Images)|
You win by being innovative, creative and throwing the football.
Is that not all the proof you need?
Manning's Colts finished the season ranked second in passing yards. The Saints, coached by Payton, were fourth.
The Colts were second in the league in passing attempts with 37.6 per game, while the Saints finished 15th, averaging 34 passes a game. But in 2008 the Saints led the league, averaging 39.8 throws per game.
Woody Hayes once said three things happen when you throw the football, and two of them are bad. With apologies to the late Hayes, we need to add a fourth.
It's called winning.
These two were the top seeds in their conferences for a reason. The Saints jumped to a 13-0 start and the Colts 14-0 for a reason.
Two right arms, one belonging to Manning and one belonging to Drew Brees of the Saints.
Watching Manning go throw for throw with Brees in what should be good conditions in Miami should make for a dream Super Bowl, maybe one of those last-team-with-the-ball-wins games.
Here's hoping the Super Bowl scoreboard operator is getting in some good pregame exercise for those fingers. He will need to be on his game.
Both Manning and Brees played games at Landshark Stadium this season. Both beat the Miami Dolphins in dramatic fashion. Manning beat the Dolphins in Week 2 and Brees won at Miami in Week 7. Manning threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns, the last with 3:18 left to give the Colts a 27-23 victory. The Saints rallied to win 46-34 with 23 fourth-quarter points. Brees threw for 298 yards and a touchdown and ran for two scores.
It's hard to imagine both quarterbacks not having big days in their next game in the stadium. The two Super Bowl defenses aren't in the same class as the offenses. The Colts finished 18th in total defense, the Saints 25th.
The Colts defense has played better in the playoffs, but the Saints had problems against the Vikings on Sunday. Minnesota rang up 497 yards of total offense in the NFC Championship Game, but the Saints forced five turnovers.
I think Manning carves that defense to shreds. Like the Jets in the AFC Championship Game, the Saints will throw a lot of blitzes at Manning. That's what Gregg Williams does.
Blitzing Manning is a cardinal sin.
I asked several Saints defensive players about facing Manning after Sunday's game, but none wanted to really discuss it.
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They wanted to enjoy the moment, not agonize over facing Manning.
"Let me just enjoy this one," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said.
Saints fans better hope party time ends soon because New Orleans will need everything it has to stop Manning.
The Colts defense is a small unit that plays fast. It is a unit that can sometimes have problems with big, powerful teams. But the Saints aren't that.
Although the Saints ran the ball better this season, finishing ranked sixth overall, they won't line up and pound it inside.
Payton and his players hate being called a finesse team, but that's what the Saints are. Did you see them on most of their short-yardage runs against the Vikings?
The Saints morphed into something they haven't been in most of Payton's tenure: They played it safe. Instead of spread formations dictating tempo, they used a lot of tight formations and kept tight ends and backs in to block. They often had an extra tackle on the field. That made for an unsettled Brees, who didn't look as sharp as usual.
Some Saints players were a little surprised at the plan, but said it was done to help neutralize the Minnesota pass rush.
They can't play that way and beat the Colts.
The Colts will get theirs. The Saints will have to keep up. And they have the offense, one of the few teams that does, which will give them a chance to do just that.
Payton has been defensive at times about his style. He shouldn't be. It's the right way to play. When we talked this summer at camp about the criticism, he laughed. He also said he would rather have a one-play drive for a touchdown than a 13-play drive to a field goal.
Ball control is so passé.
They partied like it was Mardi Gras in the French Quarter on Sunday night. It was wild in the city, 43 years of frustration coming out.
I wanted to join them, but not to celebrate the Saints' victory. Rather to celebrate two passing teams playing for the Super Bowl title. Bury the run-and-play-defense talk.
It's Peyton vs. Payton to decide the Super Bowl.
No matter who wins, we already have.