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Onside Kick Was Key to Saints Victory

MIAMI --- It s an aptly named play the New Orleans Saints call "Ambush," an onside kick Saints coach Sean Payton told his players they would use to start the second half of Sunday s Super Bowl.

"Sean has big (guts) for that one," Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey said.

Shockey used a different word than "guts." The Saints recovered and scored a touchdown, turning the momentum of Super Bowl XLIV away from the Indianapolis Colts, who went on to lose 31-17.

"We knew they were going to pull out all stops," Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday said of the underdog Saints. "Sean Payton has always been like that. He s not going to leave anything in the bag." Kicker Thomas Morstead executed the kick, which bounced off of Hank Baskett of the Colts, resulting in a scrum for the ball that looked like the Super Bowl of rugby, not football.

Jonathan Casillas was officially credited with the recovery, but he said it was teammate Chris Reis who got it.

The Saints trailed 10-6 at the time. Six plays later, they took a 13-10 lead on a touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Pierre Thomas.

"We always talk about the little things, and that was a little thing that was huge," Colts safety Melvin Bullitt said of the onside kick. "If we would ve got the ball right there, maybe on the 40-yard line, the game could ve went in a totally different direction." Added Bullitt: "It was gutsy. It was the Super Bowl." It was the first onside kick before the fourth quarter in Super Bowl history.

"At that point in the game, I did not expect them to do anything like that," Colts offensive tackle Ryan Diem said. "The element of surprise got us." Payton told Morstead with about 20 minutes left in halftime about the plan.

Morstead said he wishes the coach had waited a little longer.

"When coach called that play, it made sense to me," Morstead said. "I was terrified and excited at the same time, because I knew we could do it if I executed." Morstead, also the punter, said he had only been practicing onside kicks "for a week and a half." ''When I was first learning it, I was having trouble with it," he said. "I played soccer in high school and I took free kicks because I could bend it.

(Former Saints kicker and current team consultant) John Carney said to ½OElig¾bend it like Beckham.  "Give credit to Chris, because he was out there getting clawed (in the scrum)." Morstead said field goal kicker Garrett Hartley is the better kicker for onside kicks, but using him would have eliminated the element of surprise.

Payton announced the decision to his whole team about five minutes before the players went out for the second half.

"That s a very aggressive and bold call," Casillas said. "We stick behind our coach like he sticks behind the players." The Saints players did their best acting jobs not to give away the secret while warming up for the second half and then watching from the sidelines.

Said Payton, "We felt there was more than a 60, 70 percent chance of recovery. We felt not good, but real good. (dotdotdot) The execution was great. They made me look good." Colts coach Jim Caldwell didn t want to put too much emphasis on how badly the onside kick hurt the Colts.

"A lot of different things happened in the game that could have put us in a different position," Caldwell said.

One of them happened in the second quarter with the Colts leading 10-3.

Pierre Garcon, who had already scored a touchdown, dropped a third-down pass that not only would have given the Colts a first down but much more because Garcon had room to run.

Instead, it was a three-and-out.

"I should have made the catch," Garcon said. "It was a great throw by Peyton. It was my fault. It could have made a difference in the game. I ll use that for motivation next year when I m working out."

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