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Payton odd man out as Saints offense torches Colts

by | CBSSports.com
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NEW ORLEANS -- It all adds up now.

Sean Payton's view high atop from the freshly coined Mercedes-Benz Superdome stunk. Payton's place in the New Orleans Saints coaches quarters high atop the jazzed up screaming fanatics were cramped, uncomfortable and awkward.

Payton's surgically repaired left leg was still in a bulky brace after taking a crippling hit on the Saints' third offensive play during last week's loss to Tampa Bay. The Superdome's coaching booth is barely equipped to handle able-bodied legs, so Payton's inflexible peg leg had to be propped up on a chair more than likely. Everything about the situation reeked of uncomfortableness, and then came kickoff.

The Saints offense absolutely humiliated the Indianapolis Colts 62-7 on Sunday night. So how did Payton do it? How was he so in sync?

He simply stepped out of the way.

Payton said at some point last Tuesday or Wednesday that he told offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael that he would call the plays. Payton actually relinquished his playcalling duties, which was something he'd hold a grudge over for the rest of your life if you asked him to do so three years ago.

So this took a lot of ego swallowing to let the playsheet go, and a TON of trust in Carmichael to let this happen. Payton said he knew as soon as he saw the Colts' plan that Carmichael was ready for this.

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"Not a lot of people in this room would recognize him if he walked in here with 10 other people. He called every play tonight," Payton said. "He was outstanding. ... I'll tell you what, that was a heck of a first one for him."

Um, yeah.

The Saints set a single-game franchise record with 62 points. In turn, it's the most points the Colts surrendered since 1962, when they allowed 57. The Saints were 7 of 8 in the red zone, Drew Brees threw more touchdowns (five) than incompletions (four). Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles each scored two TDs. The Saints blew away the Colts on the ground, too, for 236 total rushing yards.

Carmichael wasn't just great. He was brilliant.

"No matter what happens, whatever we face, it's the next man up," Brees said. "Pete did a phenomenal job. It was great execution of our game plan. It was a tough week for all of us and I think coming off that Tampa loss, we had a good standard for the way we operate and the way we play."

Payton made it seem like Carmichael would become the playcalling middle man and the Payton-to-Carmichael-to-Brees process would cut off three or four precious headset seconds before every offensive snap. The hope was for each party in the Saints playcalling version of telephone to already recognize and comprehend the called play at least midway through the verbiage to cut off chatter time. The Saints took 75 offensive snaps Sunday night and only called one timeout late in the first quarter that might have led you to believe that there was confusion.

Preparation from Payton's hospital bed started bright and early Monday morning. Who knows when the guy even slept? He began sending text messages to Carmichael at 5 a.m. Monday morning and did so up until an hour before Payton went into surgery. I waited until the initial texting crush ended before I sent Payton a text message Tuesday evening wishing him well -- yes, I went soft -- and Payton responded back to me at 3:22 a.m. Wednesday morning. Either the medical staff awoke him from his slumber or Payton was awake surfing his iPad through Colts video.

CBSSports.com Grades
Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts
F
The Colts were a complete and utter disaster as they've ended a streak of nine consecutive 10-win seasons, falling to 0-7. It seemed like the Colts were moving in the right direction to winning a game before they played the Saints. They took about 12 steps backward as the Colts' offense was stagnant and the defense was dreadful.
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
A+
The Saints offense moved the ball better than it had in team history, and all of that with Sean Payton calling the offensive plays in the coaches' booth. The defense played with more energy than we've seen in a while and actually won the turnover battle, which had been a rarity this season.
By Larry Holder
RapidReports Correspondent

Then the in-house video crew panned to Payton with less than a minute left in the first half and the guy had his hand on his chin and cheek. He looked bored. Peyton Manning, who stood on the sideline, couldn't blame him.

Payton wasn't able to leave the press box with the injury, which he knew would be the case going into the game. So Payton chowed down a hot dog and then his good buddy, country music star Kenny Chesney, joined him to pass the time. (Yes, that really happened.)

That's because the joke was on us.

Why Payton didn't want to reveal his secret plan is beyond me. I'm willing to bet even if Carmichael screwed up a couple of times under the "pressure" of the Colts knowing the plan beforehand that the Saints would have still won by 21. I guess it's just one of those Payton idiosyncrasies.

So what did Payton do besides eat hot dogs and chat with Kenny Chesney?

Payton said his role was no different than the role of a lot of head coaches and was just to manage the game, click over from offense and defense, down and distance.

"As we got started, I just wanted to make sure that I was letting these guys coach," Payton said.

Payton even fooled the players.

"I'm not going to lie to you. I though it was Sean calling the plays," guard Carl Nicks told WWLTV.com. "That's how smooth it felt."

Graham added, "It's fun playing games like this, when it doesn't matter what you call, it's working."

It's fair to argue, though, that the Saints did all of this against the now 0-7 Colts. But Indianapolis never played anywhere near this poorly this season. The only real question leaving this game was why would Peyton Manning want to come back this season?

"I think the guys fought. We didn't execute well, but I think the effort was good," says Colts coach Jim Caldwell on his team's effort.

I'd love to see what a bad effort looks like. At least one Colts player wasn't delusional.

"This loss sums up the season so far," Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said. "We aren't proud of what happened out there tonight."

And it was all by the hands of a first-time playcaller.

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