The final game of the 2009-2010 season is upon us and everyone from Indiana all the way to Louisiana, and a couple people outside of those states are excited about the match-up. The similarities between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints are abundant. Both teams started the season 13-0, retained home field advantage throughout their respective championship runs, and have dynamic offenses saddled by top-tier Quarterbacks. Both combatants have defenses that have shown flashes of brilliance this year and tend to rely on speed and pursuit to stop opposing offenses.
People have been waiting to see these teams meet all season, and unlike some previous seasons, actually will have the opportunity. The obviously dramatic match-ups for this Super Bowl were either the Jets and Vikings or Saints and Colts. Had the Jets bested the Colts and Brett Favre tucked it and ran with 17 seconds to go in the NFC Championship, we’d be talking about 40-year-old Brett Favre facing the team he took snaps for in 2008-09.
Fortunately for NFL Fans, we’re not watching the Saints and Jets. Those two teams have absolutely zero history and even less drama between them. The only tie I can even make between them is that Saints starting LB Jonathan Vilma started his career with the Jets, only to be sent packing when former Jets Head Coach Eric Man-gina came to town and changed the defensive scheme to a 3-4 package. Vilma struggled the first season before moving back into a 4-3 set in New Orleans. Not exactly the same drama that Brett Favre vs. NYJ or Manning vs. Brees delivers that’s for sure.
The conversation around Manning vs. Brees has to do with the legitimacy of Drew Brees. In the last three years he has submitted his name into the ranks of Manning and Brady, but lacks the shiny finger ornament that justifies the careers of all great quarterbacks (sorry Dan Marino). If he wins on Sunday, Drew is likely to be in New Orleans the rest of his career and leave behind a legacy as the greatest quarterback in a city that will soon be under water.
The last “great” quarterback for the New Orleans Saints was the father of Peyton and Eli Manning, Archie. What made Archie Manning great? I have no idea. I saw a clip of him running around getting chased by defenders once, but that’s pretty much the extent of my memories of watching him play. The stats don’t really tell the story either. In 14 seasons with the Saints, Oilers, and Vikings, Archie had zero winning seasons. His most successful season by far was the 1979 campaign when he led the Saints to an 8-8 season with 15 TD’s / 20 INT’s and inexplicably one of two career Pro Bowl appearances. By far, Archie’s greatest contribution to the game of football are his two sons, and the uncanny ability to make analysts and color commentators forget his Rodney Peete-esque statistics, and label him as a “great” quarterback.
The only thing in the world that could make Saints fans forget all about Archie Manning and remind them of how little he actually accomplished for the franchise is a Saints Super Bowl win on Sunday. Of course, fairy tales of fabled follied fathers of future Hall of Famers fail to foretell football future. That will have to be decided, like all other games, on the gridiron…
Every year prior to the Super Bowl, EA Sports runs a simulation of Madden that will determine the Super Bowl. Five of the last six years, the winner has been correct. I bet you can guess which year the EA simulator, millions of Americans, and countless heartbroken New Englanders were wrong. This year, the EA Sports simulator says the Saints will win 35-31.
That’s all good and well, but I thought I would go ahead and run my own simulation. Rather than watch a fake football game, I “super-simmed” it.
To be fair, I modified the starters so that each team was playing their team based on the real life depth chart. This is going to sway the simulation because players like Pierre Garcon, Melvin Bullitt of the Colts, and Carl Nicks of the Saints are… well… not very good in Madden 10. In addition, a few players were either hard to find in Madden or non-existent. I apologize to Kyle Eckel, Thomas Morstead, Mike Bell, Courtney Roby, Remi Ayodele, Jacob Lacey, Antonio Johnson, and Kyle DeVan. Although you get to play in real life, this is not real life, and you have to sit out my simulation.
In order to be fair, as I know Jacob Lacey is in important part of the Colts defense, I allowed CB Marlin Jackson to play in his stead.
Now that the rules are fair, the simulation begins. I’m going to watch this stupid thing and tell you all about it. You couldn’t get a better pregame analysis than the fake play by play of the game itself!
According to Madden, the Saints kick off. On the opening kickoff, Pierre Garcon fumbled on the opening drive, but the Colts were able to recover.
Oh dear, Reggie Bush broke a big 38 yard run, but put the ball on the ground at the end. Somehow the Saints recovered and retained possession, though. The Saints ran a screen pass to Bush on 3rd and 10, and punt the ball into the Colts end zone.
The first score of the game comes with 1:19 remaining in the first quarter on a Pierre Garcon 63-yard TD pass. Apparently it’s not a big deal to Madden that Garcon is ranked as a 54 overall in the game.
On a 3rd and 1, Bush broke a toss play for 15 yards, moving the Saints into Colt territory to end the first quarter. At the end of one, Colts 7 – Saints 0.
On 4th and 6, Garrett Hartley fails to put the Saints on the board as he misses a 43 yard field goal. This could spell trouble for the Saints as the Colts take the ball back up by seven.
For the second score of the game, Peyton Manning hits Dallas Clark over the middle for 10 yards. Colts 14 – Saints 0 with 2:57 left in the first half.
On the play from scrimmage, Reggie Bush takes the ball and runs up the middle 70 yards down to the Colts 2-yard line. After two failed runs up the middle by Pierre Thomas, David Thomas drops a Drew Brees pass in the end zone. Saints settle for an extra point distance field goal. Colts 14 – Saints 3.
Fortunately for the Saints, the Colts are 3 and out on the following drive and New Orleans will have another shot to score before half time. Thanks to a 3rd down penalty on Melvin Bullitt, the Saints pick up a big gain and score two plays later on a 21 yard pass to Bush. Colts 14 – Saints 10 with :46 to go in the first half. Plenty of time for Manning and company.
In classic useless Madden fashion, the Colts keep running the ball and calling timeout for no reason. Now they have to punt with :29 left on the clock. Brees will start on the Saints 35 yard line and :19 to go.
No real action to speak of, and that’s the half. Stats are pretty close at the half, just like the score. The Saints have 234 yards of total offense and the Colts have 181. The major difference is the Colts have not moved the ball on the ground, with only 7 yards, while Reggie Bush has, well, 128 yards by himself.
Here are the key halftime stats:
Manning: 11 of 13 for 174 yards and 2 TDs
Brees: 8 of 14 for 96 yards and 1 TD
Bush: 7 carries 128 yards, 3 rec 33 yards 1 TD
Clark: 4 rec 51 yards
Garcon: 3 rec 95 yards
Henderson: 2 rec 39 yards
Marques Colston and Reggie Wayne each have one catch, and Austin Collie, Jeremy Shockey, and Joseph Addai have made only minor impacts to the game so far. No turnovers in the first half
Onto the 2nd half, Colts Lead 14-10:
The Saints get the ball to start the second half and immediately start moving the ball down the field. Bush, Shockey, and Pierre Thomas are all making plays on this drive, and it’s clear electronic Drew Brees is intent on making this a game. On 3rd down and 10 from the Colts 12, Indy brings the DB blitz and Brees hits Bush for a 12-yard score. New Orleans has its first lead of the game, 17-14.
On the ensuing drive, a couple big plays to Addai and Clark get it started, putting the Colts in Saint territory rather quickly. On 2nd and 8, the Colts lose 3 on a toss to Addai and can’t recover on 3rd down. Matt Stover hits the field goal, but a holding penalty puts them out of field goal range and the Saints are instead pinned down on the 9 yard line with a punt.
Saints will start there, and bust into Colt territory with back to back strikes to Robert Meachem for 32 and 17 yards. As the 3rd quarter ends, this really does look like the Colts vs. Saints match-up we expect to see on Sunday.
As the 4th quarter begins, Meachem remains the key to the drive as he scores on a 6 yard crossing pattern. Saints lead 24-14.
The Colts go for it on 4th and 6, and fall just short. Upon review Austin Collie appeared to first touch the ball over the 1st down marker, however bobbled it and didn’t retain possession until after he was forced back across the marker. A small twist of fate perhaps, and karma recovering for the Kevin Faulk 4th and 2? Hmmm…
Saints take over, but go 3 and out. They punt, and Peyton will start on his own 20 yard line, down by 10 with 2:35 to go. Big catch by Garcon along the sidelines, but New Orleans challenges and it’s ruled an incomplete pass. That was a 40 yard play turned around. Unphased, Manning completes his next two passes, and will have a 2nd and 7 at the two minute warning on his own 43 yard line. On 3rd and 10 Manning completes a pass to Wayne for 7 yards, then just overthrows Collie on 4th and 3 along the sidelines. Another turnover on downs for Peyton. I think he just made the Manning face.
Uh-oh for the Colts, Bush just caught a screen pass and busted it for 20 yards. With 1:09 left, the end could be near for the Indianapolis Colts.
Brees continues to complete passes, and it’s announced that Bush is the Super Bowl MVP as he makes yet another TD catch, this one for 16 yards. The nail in the coffin for Indy blue, as the Saints extend the lead to 31-14.
Super Bowl Extra-Large 4 comes to an end with the Saints on top 31-14.
Reggie Bush finally lives up to the hype and earns himself that contract extension. His final stat line is pretty impressive: 12 carries 163 yards, 9 rec 94 yards 3 TDs.
Brees has a pretty good day for himself as well, ending 22 of 33 for 279 yards and 4 TDs.
Other key stats for this game:
Manning: 23-32 297 yards 2 TDs
Clark: 7 rec 94 yards 1 TD
Garcon: 5 rec 102 yards 1 TD
Meachem: 3 rec 55 yards 1 TD
Fourteen players make receptions in this game, and neither team turned the ball over (except for Indy’s two turnovers on downs). In addition, there were no sacks recorded.
Well, I’m not sure how accurate these stat lines are, or how realistic the idea of Peyton Manning being shut out in the 2nd half of the Super Bowl is. What I do know is that this game is packed full of offense, with superstars on both sides of the ball. At any moment, either team could break out with a big play resulting in an exciting Super Bowl. I even enjoyed watching the stupid Madden simulation.
If nothing else, nobody can say the two best teams didn’t get a shot to bring home glory. My gut instinct though:
I’m with Brees, Bush, Colston, Sharper, Madden and the Saints. 38-34.
Thanks for reading all year. Enjoy the game, and I’ll see you in the spring for some Spring Training highlights from Sunny Arizona!