What We Learned: Super Bowl XLIV

We learned that the Saints were an underdog that shouldn't have been underestimated. What else did we learn from this game and about the future of this team? Brad Keller takes a look.

Is Courtney Roby available?:  When Roby was a member of the Colts, he was a part-time contributor on special teams, but was always being groomed as a potential receiver if anything happened to the starters. He seems to have found his niche in the kicking game, as he was all over the place on coverage, fared better than Chad Simpson on returns, and proved to be a more-than-capable blocker.

It is doubtful that he will be willing to come back to Indianapolis now that he has found a home with the Saints, but it's worth a shot.  Special teams was a point of consternation for Colts fans — and, it seemed, an afterthought for the coaches — throughout 2009 and it was an apparent weakness in the Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning made one bad decision: But he did not have a bad game.  It was a tale of two halves for Manning, as he was his usual confident and accurate self in the first half, but the New Orleans defense made the necessary in-game adjustments to confuse him just enough that he made one bad decision that cost his team the game.

Tracy Porter revealed in a postgame interview that he knew what was coming before Manning let the ball go, so it could also be chalked up to the play call.  Ultimately, though, Manning is responsible for the final play that is called before the ball is snapped, so he must accept responsibility.

Though he's now only 9-9 in the playoffs, Manning is still the backbone of this team.  As he goes, so go the Colts, which is a big reason he was voted the league MVP in 2009.  As long as 18 is under center, Indianapolis will have a great chance to be competitive.  They will be in the mix again — possibly for another Super Bowl appearance — before he hangs up his cleats for good.

He will learn from this failure.  He will improve. Manning and the Colts will come out focused and angry next season, so the rest of the league should be on notice.  They had a chance for a championship and came up short.  If they get another opportunity, they will be ready, because they obviously don't want to feel the sting of a loss like this again.

Jim Caldwell played not to lose:  Indianapolis had momentum, the ball, and a seven-point lead after they stopped New Orleans on fourth and goal.  Instead of trusting Manning and the potent Colts two minute offense, Caldwell instead decided to play it safe and try to protect the lead.  The defense was embattled, having spent almost the entire second quarter on the field and needed a rest.

It's possible Caldwell thought he was giving that chance to rest, but his strategy was tentative and ultimately ineffective.  He couldn't have known that the Saints were going to onside kick to open the second half and must have trusted that his team would have the ball, but he was also on the sidelines to see the back-breaking effect that the two minute offense had on the Jets two weeks prior.  He played it too safe when there was no tomorrow and momentum swung back to New Orleans.

All season, Caldwell had been fairly aggressive and had trusted his offense.  When he abandoned that strategy towards the end of the first half, it essentially cost them the game.  Next season, Caldwell will — or at least should — know better.  Let's just hope the Colts are in the same position in February 2011.

The young receivers are great, but . . . This is still Reggie Wayne's offense.  Until Manning can look to someone else in the clutch — and Dallas Clark was on the field during that crucial play — defenses will continue to key on him like Porter did.  If Anthony Gonzalez or Clark is not that someone, Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie need to become that someone.

Resting the starters in Week 16 had nothing to do with this outcome:  The Saints lost their last three and were not affected in the postseason, including the Super Bowl  They were simply better prepared, more focused, and played a better game.  Colts fans should not point fingers and should accept the fact that, although they may have been the better team, Indianapolis got beat by a New Orleans squad that played a better game on Super Sunday.

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