Discussion

How Sean Payton played his hand

The choices he made were brave, but ultimately logical

Updated: February 8, 2010, 11:27 AM ET
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders

What this is: Every week during the NFL season, Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders broke down skill-position performances in his Quick Reads column. Here's the final edition of the 2009 season -- breaking down the best of the best in the New Orleans Saints' victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. For more on FBO's metrics, click here.

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints' organization and the great fans of New Orleans for winning Super Bowl XLIV. May the feeling you had watching Tracy Porter run the victory into the end zone remain on instant recall for generations, and may those fans who haven't yet experienced the bliss of a Super Bowl victory get to experience the same exhilaration one day.

And how did it happen? Well, the instant narrative that spilled out of Super Bowl XLIV was that "Payton beat Peyton." Saints coach Sean Payton made amazingly brave decisions, and Colts QB Peyton Manning couldn't come up big when he needed to. The "Manning choked" talk is just as silly as it was five years ago and deserves little respect, so we're going to focus on a much more quantifiable part of the game: Payton's decisions.

In a game that often paralyzes coaches with its importance, Payton made two extremely bold, unconventional moves. To steal our favorite phrase from Herm Edwards, Payton coached to win the game. An evaluation of those decisions -- even without considering the outcome of the game, which was mostly independent of his two biggest strategic choices -- proves them to be correct.

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