The CHFF Super Bowl XLIV victory tour
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 07, 2010
By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts basker in glows
MIAMI – It's something of a tradition here at Cold, Hard Football Facts: we bask in the glorious afterglow of another championship-trophy-hoisting season of analysis, while separating the winners from the losers in the bloody aftermath of our wars against the "pundits."
Winners: Drew Brees & the Cold, Hard Football Facts
Stuart Scott asked the question in ESPN's postgame report: "Why was Drew Brees the better quarterback on Super Bowl Sunday?"
To which we answered, "Duh!"
The answer was so obvious that the entire realm of pigskin "punditry" overlooked it: Brees was the better quarterback on Super Bowl Sunday because he was the better quarterback throughout 2009.
How the "pundits" missed this obvious fact in their race before the Super Bowl to declare Peyton Manning the Greatest Of All Time is one of the more shameful episodes in the long, shameful history of pigskin "punditry."
We actually laughed and laughed and laughed at that storyline for a good two weeks. Manning the G-O-A-T. Don Rickles himself never came up with a one-liner that good.
After all, the Cold, Hard Football Facts shouted the superiority of Brees over Manning from every roof top we could find before the Super Bowl, from the realms of online print here and here and around various radio shows from Boston to New Orleans. (The most accurate breakdown of Super Bowl XLIV found anywhere was probably the one we provided for our friends at WEEI.com ... talk about nailing a game perfectly.)
The bottom line is that anyone who dared study the Cold, Hard Football Facts for a single second knew that Brees was the better quarterback – at least this year and perhaps over the course of the past several recent years.
But the "punditry" declared Manning the Chosen One long ago and therefore is committed to perpetuating the ideology rather than the truth, much like former newspapers such as the N.Y. Times or Boston Globe are committed to perpetuating a political ideology rather than reporting the news.
It's sad, really.
It's this commitment to ideology instead of a commitment to the unwavering and triumphant truth of the Cold, Hard Football Facts that explains why the "pundits" have named Manning the league MVP each of the past two years when other quarterbacks so obviously deserved the honor.
And it's this commitment to ideology over trutth that caused the pigskin punditry to miss the big story leading up to Super Bowl XLIV, the story that the Saints, and not the Colts, held the advantage at the most important position on the field. They also missed the fact that Brees was clearly the MVP of the 2009 season. They also didn't foresee Brees outperforming Manning in the Super Bowl. And they obviously didn't realize that the Saints had dominated the passing wars on both sides of the ball all year long.
So here are two Cold, Hard Football Facts you need to consider next time the Brees vs. Manning debate arises.
One: Brees is now No. 2 all time in postseason passer rating (103.7), behind the only guy who sports a ring for every finger on his throwing hand, Bart Starr (104.8). That number is quite a bit higher than Manning's postseason passer rating (87.6).
Two: Loyal CHFF readers (Hi Uncle Jessie!) know that interceptions are the single most important play in postseason football (see CHFF interception ladder below). Brees is easily No. 1 all time in postseason INT rate. He's thrown just two picks in six games and a whopping 225 playoff passing attempts (0.89%).
Manning, for his part, has thrown 19 picks in 18 playoff games and 692 attempts (2.75%). So his huge and crushing pick against one of the league's best pass defenses on Sunday was something of a historic inevitability that we told you was likely to happen.
As we've seen throughout history, and as we saw once again in Super Bowl XLIV, the single-most important thing a passer can do is keep the ball out of the hands of opposing defenders.
Right now, Brees does this better than any quarterback in history – better even the former No. 1 in caring for the ball, five-time champion Starr (1.41%).
Losers: Peyton Manning and the pigskin "pundits"
Super Bowl build-up is traditionally a time of over-the-top declarations of greatness. But few pre-Super Bowl claims were more woefully misguided than the "Peyton Manning is the Greatest of All Time" storyline that pervaded the tragically misguided pigskin "punditry" in the two weeks before the game.
A few numbers for you to consider about the player the "pundits" dubbed the G-O-A-T before the game and that the nation dubbed the goat after the game:
Manning in the regular season:
4,232 of 6,531 (64.8%), 50,128 yards, 7.68 YPA, 366 TD, 181 INT, 95.2 passer rating
Manning in the playoffs:
435 of 692 (62.9%), 5,164 yards, 7.46 YPA, 28 TD, 19 INT, 87.6 passer rating
Manning in the Super Bowl:
56 of 83 (67.5%), 580 yards, 6.99 YPA, 2 TD, 2 INT, 85.4 passer rating
Notice a trend there, folks? The key efficiency figures, the YPA, the TD-INT ratio, the passer rating, all decline with each step.
Manning may very well be the greatest regular-season quarterback of all time. But he's not the greatest quarterback of all time. We've told you that from the beginning. To mention him on par with Joe Montana or Bart Starr or even a Sammy Baugh, is a disservice to the sport and a sign of a person's own pathetic ignorance or, in the case of the pigskin "punditry," their wilful negligence in service of the truth.
The killer Cold, Hard Football Fact is this one: Manning is just 9-9 through 18 playoff games. You already know that. Even the "pundits" know that. What they will not admit is that it's he and his offense that are largely responsible for the nine defeats, too.
Manning and the Indy offense has produced an average of just 14.0 PPG in those nine losses. As we said at the end of the game, 14.0 PPG is definitely not a G-O-A-T number.
Winner: the Cold, Hard Football Facts Interception Ladder
Quarterbacks who threw fewer INTs went a perfect 11-0 in postseason play this year. And only one quarterback negotiated the entire postseason without throwing a single pick. His name? Drew Brees.
Here's the final postseason interception ladder in the wake of Super Bowl XLIV. It's the record of teams in the playoffs based upon the number of picks you throw.
0 INT – 194-51 (.792)
1 INT – 144-121 (.543)
2 INT – 54-120 (.310)
3 INT – 17-78 (.179)
4+ INT – 1-41 (.024)
The humbers are amazing: throw one pick and your chances of victory decline by a stunning 25 percentage points. Throw two picks, and the game's all but over statisitcally.
Loser: Scoring defense
The Saints surrendered 341 points in 2009. That makes them the third worst championship defense in Super Bowl history – and they've all come in recent years. Here they are:
2006 Colts (360 points)
2007 Giants (351 points)
2009 Saints (341 points)
Sandwiched in between the 2007 Giants and 2009 Saints, meanwhile, were the NFC champion 2008 Cardinals – a team that surrendered 426 points and was easily the worst defense ever to reach an NFL title game or Super Bowl.
The old cliché that "defense wins championships" sits there today more lifeless than the legitimacy of the pigskin "pundits."
Winner: pass defense
So borderline defenses are suddenly winning Super Bowls. But even then, you simply do not win Super Bowls if you can't play pass defense.
The Saints provide a rather notable example of this phenomenon in action – and it was another advantage they had over the Colts that we shouted over the rooftops at the clueless class of pigskin "punditry."
New Orleans ranked a very humble 20th in scoring defense this year (341 points allowed). But they were No. 3 in the NFL in 2009 in two critical categories: Defensive Passer Rating (68.6) and interceptions (26).
Coupled with the league's best quarterback and best passing attack, it made the Saints an easy No. 1 in our greatest new indicator of success, Passer Rating Differential (+37.44). It was an important distinction. As we noted before the playoffs, DPR was more likely to identify playoff teams than any indicator out there. (As always, win the passing wars you win the games.)
We saw this pass defense in action Sunday in Miami, and it won the Super Bowl for the Saints: Tracy Porter was largely responsible for shutting down Reggie Wayne (5 catches, 46 yards) and, of course, he made the championship-sealing play when he stepped in front of Wayne, plucked a Peyton pass out of the air, and raised 74 yards for the signature score of Super Bowl XLIV.
It was the end of a brilliant run for the Saints pass defense after a great regular season. In three games against three future Hall of Famers (Kurt Warner, BrettFavre and Peyton Manning), New Orleans allowed the following passing totals:
76 of 117 (65.0%), 848 yards, 7.25 YPA, 2 TD, 4 INT, 77.9 passer rating
The Saints didn't exactly shut down these guys ... more of a bend-but-don't-break type of pass defense. But a 77.9 defensive passer rating against three of best QBs in the game is a pretty good three day's work.
Teams that produce a pick-six, meanwhile, are now a perfect 8-0 in the Super Bowl (there have been 10 pick-sixes total in SB history ... Tampa returned three Rich Gannon passes for TDs in Super Bowl XXXVII).
No other score normally considered a gamebreaker has proven so important. For example, teams that return a fumble for a TD are just 2-2. A huge, momentum-swinging kick return for a TD? Those teams are just 1-5.
Loser: Bill Polian
Nobody builds teams for the regular season like Bill Polian. Nobody drafts regular-season talent like Bill Polian. His history with the Bills, expansion Panthers and Colts speaks for itself in both areas.
But Polian produces so many duds in the postseason he could box them up and sell them as candy. His Bills and Colts are now 1-5 in Super Bowls, while the Colts should be remembered as the most disappointing postseason team in history.
They famously set a record for regular-season victories in a single decade, with 115 wins from 2000 to 2009.
They've won 12 or more games in a remarkable seven straight seasons, and twice set a franchise record with 14 victories in a single campaign, including here in 2009.
Yet that incredible string of regular-season success this decade has been followed by five one-and-done playoff appearances, just nine playoff wins, two conference titles and a single Super Bowl championship.
Maybe Polian could try his hand with MLB's Atlanta Braves at his next job.
Winner: Sean Payton
Payton's decision to come out of intermission and attempt an onside kick, trailing merely 10-6, and in the Super Bowl no less, should go down as the ballsiest decision in Super Bowl history.
We gave Payton the only A+ of the evening in our postgame report card on SI.com, and for a number of reasons.
Namely, his decisions worked. And that's all that counts. In the aftermath of Bill Belichick's 4th and 2 Gate call in the New England-Indy game back in November, for example, we stated that a good decision is one that works. A bad decision is one that does not.
Belichick's 4th and 2 call against the Colts did not work. Ergo, it was a bad decision.
Payton's onside kick call against the Colts did work. Ergo, it was a good decision – and a very ballsy decision in this instance. Had it failed, there's a good chance that the Colts would have won the game. Payton would have been ripped until the end of his career for a decision that seemed to reek of panic in an otherwise highly competitive contest.
But you also assume that a coach only makes that kind of call when he or his staff finds something on film, or has a very certain sense that they can catch an opponent off guard.
But whatever the case, the decision worked and that makes it the right call. More importantly, the Saints did NOT panic when they were down 10-0 in the first quarter and it looked like the passing game couldn't find its mark (Brees was just 3 of 7 for 27 yards in the first quarter ... he threw just three incomplete passes over the final three quarters ... a nice cap on the most accurate passing season in NFL history).
New Orleans absolutely dominated the rest of the way, outscoring by 24 points over three quarters a Colts team that had not lost a game it tried to win in nearly two years.
Loser: Jim Caldwell
Our own Colonel Comey said it best in his post-game wrap-up. The Colts coach, virtually flawless here in his rookie year leading the well-oiled Indy victory machine, played it safe in the fourth quarter instead of making the more aggressive call that displayed a winning mindset.
Facing 4th and 11 at the New Orleans 33, Caldwell took the ball out of the hands of his alleged G-O-A-T quarterback and put it onto the foot of his weak-legged 42-year-old kicker Matt Stover to nail a 51 yarder.
Stover missed, of course.
It was something of a signature moment in a game in which we saw the entire Indy season unravel right before our very eyes. The Colts took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter, but were mauled 31-7 over the last 45 minutes of play. And in the fourth quarter, clinging to a 17-16 lead, the Colts took the passive approach and watched as it backfired.
Winner: the U.S. of f*ckin'A
The Cold, Hard Football Facts crew has been to mega sporting events all over the world, including World Cup soccer.
We can tell you with all certainty that nobody ramps up the pomp and pageantry quite like the NFL and the U.S. of f*ckin' A and that no single American event captures that spirit like the Stupendous Bowl.
From the mega country hottie belting out the national anthem to the earth-shaking flyover to the onslaught of star-studded events that surround the game to the raucous celebrations that follow on the field and around the country – nothing screams U-S-A! U-S-A! quite like the Super Bowl.
Yeah, people, even some ignorant Americans, are gleefully counting the days 'til the end of the empire. We say screw those people. As long as we got the colossus of the Super Bowl stomping on the lesser events, the U.S. of f*ckin' A will be a-O.K.
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