Saints win First Super Bowl! Reviewing the Box Score

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

As we all now know, the New Orleans Saints won their first title in franchise history by beating the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV. In a game of twists and turns that seemed like it could very easily be a Colts blow-out early on, New Orleans made some bold calls and had a very timely defensive TD to secure their first Lombardi trophy. Reviewing the box score, this really was an evenly played game until near the very end. Although the Colts outgained the Saints by 100 yards, 81 of those yards came on the final drive following Tracy Porter’s 74 yard interception return for a touchdown. So, those 81 were at a point when the game was pretty much decided. Certainly, there are tons of game recaps out there, but in this post I just wanted to take a look at the numbers and throw out some thoughts based on those numbers.

First, just a little review, since I’ve already written three posts comparing these teams:

In my first post, I gave the edge to the Saints, because I thought they had more balance. In the second, I concluded that neither was as dominant as the 2007 Pats, but both had a shot at 16-0, if they pursued it. But, then in the third post, I waffled and gave the Colts the edge. Although the Saints were still the more balanced team, I thought that the prior experience as a Super Bowl champion would give Indy the edge this year.

Well, I guess I was wrong. In many ways this game played out the opposite of what I would have expected. If the Saints won, I would have thought it was because of their greater balance on offense. They consistently had a much better rushing game than the Colts this year. But the Colts actually rushed for twice as many yards with a YPC that was nearly twice that of the Saints.

On the other hand, although the Saints offense was ranked number one this season, there were a handful of games where the offense was bailed out by the defense scoring TDs. So, from that standpoint, this team does reflect what we might have expected from them. With a 7 point lead and Peyton Manning driving in Saints territory, a defensive score sealed the game.

Again, referring to my statement that this was a very close game statistically, let’s look at the similarities in the box score, linked above. The Saints had 20 first downs, to the Colts 23. The Colts only had 6 more plays than the Saints, the same number of rushing plays, and similar passing statistics. Yes, the Colts had about 50 more yards passing, but the other stats were pretty similar. Brees was sacked once while Manning wasn’t sacked. Manning had one interception, zero for Brees. Both teams had two punts and nearly the same time of possession. Both teams also had a drive end by turning it over on downs.

I guess it’s true when they say that the difference between winning and losing in the NFL is very slim. The Saints won because they recovered an onside kick and scored to get back in the game and then they converted a late turnover into instant points. Congratulations to the Saints! They made the plays when they had to, and they played with an aggressiveness that paid off with a championship.

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