Sunday, February 7, 2010
Colts, Saints deserve to be there
By Mike Reiss
Super Bowl Sunday is synonymous with parties, but for many New England Patriots players there are no celebrations planned this year.
"It's hard for me to watch it," veteran running back Sammy Morris said. "I'll watch it, but I won't go anywhere."
Morris' thoughts are echoed by several of his teammates. One day after the Super Bowl XLIV matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints was finalized, quarterback Tom Brady was asked his thoughts on the game.
"Can they both lose? Is that possible?" he responded.
For players across the NFL who invest a great deal only to fall short -- from participation in the offseason program to sweaty summer training camp practices and a grueling 16-game season -- watching the Super Bowl can be bittersweet.
At the same time, a handful of Patriots players spoke with respect about what the Colts and Saints accomplished this season. Brady called them the best teams over the course of the year, noting they've earned their spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots faced both on the road and lost both games.
As for what type of game might unfold in Super Bowl XLIV, the common theme seemed to be that the scoreboard operator should be ready to get a workout.
"My initial reaction on the game is that I would assume there will be a lot of points scored," Morris said. "It's not to take anything away from both defenses, but both offenses are highly potent and have done it all year. I think it's going to be a high-scoring game."
"There are other teams that are good out there, but these two deserve to be there," added kicker Stephen Gostkowski. "I'm from the South and everyone down there roots for the Saints. We play the Colts every year, so I guess if I'm leaning anywhere, I'd lean toward them. I have a hard time picking against Peyton Manning. I think the Colts will win, but I guess it would be nice to see a team that has never won it win it, kind of like the Patriots did in 2001."
Veteran defensive lineman Jarvis Green, who is from Donaldsonville, La., knows what a Saints win would mean to that community.
"The Saints now have their chance, and it's great for the city; this will help out a lot. The way they performed, it affects the city and how they live," he said. "Then you have the Colts, a great team playing great football, with a city boy -- Manning -- leading the way. So you can see why it's very emotional for the city. I don't have any picks on who wins, but I'll be down there."
Gostkowski, meanwhile, plans to watch the game at home in Massachusetts.
"I'm not going to be rooting for anyone, really," he said. "I'll just watch the game, and hopefully there will be some funny commercials on. It's one of those things where you wish you were there."
When analyzing the game, Morris pointed out the Saints' blitzing style as something that defines them.
"They are a little more blitz-oriented than Indianapolis," he said. "One of the things they do is that they'll blitz one guy and if the [running] back stays in to block, they'll take the other guy who is supposed to cover the back and bring him as well. A lot of teams do it; they sit back and wait to see what the back does. The Saints do that a big percentage of the time."
Because Colts quarterback Peyton Manning often gets rid of the ball so quickly, one wonders how effective the Saints can be with that strategy. Some teams call that defensive approach a "key blitz," "green dog" or "hug."
Meanwhile, one of the big questions for the Colts will be how effective defensive end Dwight Freeney is while attempting to play through a severe ankle injury (torn ligaments).
"Whether he's 75 percent, 80 percent, you absolutely have to account for him," Morris said. "He's a disruptive player who plays with great leverage, a tough guy with great speed who is difficult to block. You look at him and the easiest way to see his skills is by sacks, but he also disrupts the run game as well."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.