New Orleans Celebrates

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

WHO 'DAT WITH A SUPER BOWL TROPHY?
NEW ORLEANS CELEBRATES HUGE WIN!

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

Things looked bleak for the Big Easy one quarter into Sunday evening's Super Bowl. New Orleans trailed 10-0, and was getting dominated at the point of attack. The Saints were sluggish, reminiscent of last week's struggle with Minnesota, and their earlier loss at home to Dallas. Indianapolis was grinding up yardage at their normal clip...reminding everyone of what they had just seen in the AFC Playoffs.

New Orleans won the rest of the game 31-7! That's what the Hurley Network was talking about when it released a side & total parlay on the Saints and the Under 56.5. We were convinved that if the underdog could survive its early jitters, those 5.5 points on the line would look awfully big as the game wore on. We were further convinced that both defenses were underrated and that the game was not going to be the shootout the general public assumed. Let's crunch the numbers and see what happened as we review the final game of the long and memorable 2009-10 football season...

NEW ORLEANS 31, INDIANAPOLIS 17
Total Yardage: New Orleans 332, Indianapolis 432
Rushing Yardage: New Orleans 51, Indianapolis 99
Passing Stats: New Orleans 32-39-0-281, Indianapolis 31-45-1-333
Turnovers: New Orleans 0, Indianapolis 1
Points Scored on Drives of 60+ Yards: New Orleans 3, Indianapolis 14
Third Down Conversions: New Orleans 33%, Indianapolis 46%
Vegas Line: Indianapolis by 4.5, total of 56.5
Comments: Before explaining that boxscore, let's briefly review the flow of the game...

FIRST QUARTER:
Basically a replay of everything we've seen so far in the playoffs from the Indy perspective. They systematically moved the ball down the field before settling for a field goal. Then, they systematically drove almost the entire length of the football field for a touchdown! It was 10-0 Colts, who looked to all the world like they were ready grind out another decisive victory against an outmanned foe. Total yardage after 15 minutes was 154-36.

SECOND QUARTER
New Orleans got off the mat and showed everyone why they were in the big game. They won total yardage 143-15...and were a bit unfortunate to still trail 10-6 at the half! New Orleans had two field goal drives, and what looked like a certain TD drive snuffed at the two yard line. Indy only ran a few plays because they were too timid between long Saints drives. A sign of overconfidence? Maybe temporary complacency. They weren't playing like they felt threatened. Suddenly, they were very much being threatened.

THIRD QUARTER
The Saints went for an onside kick at the start of the second half...a brilliant tactical decision that caught the Colts surprisingly flat-footed. Sean Payton was on record saying he'd do anything to win. The Colts were still complacent! New Orleans took a 13-10 lead on the ensuing touchdown drive. Indianapolis would answer with a TD...the Saints kicked a field goal to get back within one point. We obviously had a game on our hands. It wasn't an all-time classic given the plodding pace of the drives. Maybe we were in store for a classic ending. Indy takes a 17-16 lead into the final quarter, and has the ball.

FOURTH QUARTER
A drive that moved in fits and starts for the Colts ended with a missed 51-yard field goal. Would it have been better to punt? Tough call. If you make the field goal, you're only up four points...and your defense hasn't exactly been on fire since the first quarter. If you miss, you give the Saints fantastic field position. New Orleans converted that fantastic field position into the go-ahead touchdown. The two-point conversion was good (after a review on a very close play). 24-17 New Orleans with 5:42 left. Indy went back to chipping away hoping for the tying TD. PICK SIX! The first turnover of the day came with just over three minutes to go...and suddenly New Orleans had turned a 10-0 deficit into a 31-17 lead with a 31-7 run! You couldn't say 'ballgame' just yet with Peyton Manning on the field. Manning picked up about 70 garbage yards in a drive that ended with an incomplete pass into the end zone on fourth down. THEN YOU COULD SAY BALLGAME!

Often big battles are just a series of smaller battles. Let's see who won those.

Quarterback Battle: DREW BREES, particularly after the first quarter. He had a huge game, throwing just seven incomplete passes and avoiding turnovers and sacks. Indianapolis couldn't pressure him (surely a partial result of the Dwight Freeney injury). He was very much in synch in those last three quarters based on his stellar passing line.

Coaching Battle: SEAN PAYTON, by a mile. The onside kick was a thing of brilliance. Jim Caldwell's cool confidence seemed to rub off on the Colts players in just the wrong way at just the wrong times. Payton bounced back very well from a timid effort the prior game against the Vikings. He made the right decisions, and had his players in the right frame of mind.

Defense Wins Championships?: that pick six was definitely huge. Most of the game, you'd have to say both defenses were holding their own, but not particularly thriving. New Orleans allowed more than 100 rushing yards in the first three quarters (big surprise), and 67% on third downs during that same span. They did rise to the occasion when it mattered.

The Saints deserved to win...this happens to be a game where the final stats don't paint the picture as well as they normally do.

Football is over, which means it's time to focus exclusively on basketball. We've been BEGGING you to sign up with JIM HURLEY'S red hot CASHLINE and BLUE RIBBON programs. Tonight's a great night to start with BIG MONDAY on ESPN tipping off RIVALRY WEEK! Get excited about basketball!

Tonight's TV twinbill in the colleges:

*Villanova at West Virginia on ESPN (two ranked teams who you'll see plenty of this March...with the visitor trying to shake off a bad loss Saturday at Georgetown and travel fatigue).

*Kansas at Texas on ESPN (two teams who were once battling for #1 seeds in the Big Dance. Kansas is still in good shape to earn that perk. Texas has lost four of its last six games, and sure doesn't want to make it five of seven. HUGE game in the competitive Big 12!

Tonight's TV twinbill in the NBA that also has our attention:

*New Orleans at Orlando on TNT
*San Antonio at the LA Lakers on TNT

Call 1-800-323-4453 to sign up. Game day releases and packages can also be purchased online with your credit card here at the website.

We'll talk a lot more about the colleges this week as we pick back up with SPOTLIGHT coverage in the major conferences to help showcase RIVALRY WEEK. Look for notes on the Big 10 and SEC in tomorrow's report. That will help get you ready for national telecasts featuring: Illinois/Wisconsin, Purdue/Michigan State, Tennessee/Vanderbilt, and Alabama/Kentucky.

Football is over. Thanks to all of you who were with us through another winning campaign. Now it's time to get hoop it up as JIM HURLEY takes you step by step down THE ROAD TO MARCH MADNESS!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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