Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans Saints
Colts: 363.1 yds (9th)
Colts: 80.9 yds (32nd)
Colts: 282.2 yds (2nd)
Colts: 339.2 yds (18th)
Colts: 126.5 yds (24th)
Colts: 212.7 yds (14th)
Colts: 34 (16th)
Colts: 27:40 (30th)
Colts: +2 (13th)
Saints: +11 (3rd)
Saints: 403.8 yds (1st)
Saints: 131.6 yds (6th)
Saints: 272.2 yds (4th)
Saints: 357.8 yds (25th)
Saints: 122.2 yds (21st)
Saints: 235.6 yds (26th)
Saints: 35 (13th)
Saints: 31:10 (11th)
Three things you might not know
1. If you believe Super Bowl experience is a factor, the Colts have a huge advantage. Indianapolis has 25 players on its roster who were on the team when it beat Chicago in Super Bowl XLI. Two players who joined the team this season, K Matt Stover and DB Aaron Francisco, have appeared in the Super Bowl, too. Meanwhile, the Saints have only six players who have been on Super Bowl teams. And two of those players, TEs Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas, were on injured reserve when their teams made it to the big game.
2. The Colts have won the Super Bowl twice. And both times, the victories came in the city where this game is being played — Miami. The then-Baltimore Colts won in 1971 against the Cowboys, and the Indianapolis Colts beat the Bears three years ago in Super Bowl XLI. Then again, the Baltimore Colts lost Super Bowl III to Joe Namath and the Jets in 1969 in … Miami.
3. The all-time series between the teams is split, with each team beating the other five times. The Colts have won the past two meetings. But that hardly matters. The two teams haven't met since the season opener in 2007, seven months after the Colts won the Super Bowl. The Colts won easily, 41-10.
St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones breaks down today's Super Bowl.
Colts: The biggest knock against the Colts "offense" is that K Matt Stover doesn't have long range. He probably tops out at about 45 yards, especially with the game being played in an open-air stadium on grass. Then again, Stover has been in the league for 20 years. When Stover broke into the NFL, Saints K Garrett Hartley was 5 years old. So it's not like Stover is going to get rattled. As we said, the only negative is that his leg might not be strong enough to kick a 50-yarder.
Saints: RB Reggie Bush might be the most explosive player in this game. Unfortunately for him, there have been too many games in which he has been a nonfactor. But he has been very noticeable in the postseason. In the victory against Arizona, he become the first player in the Super Bowl era to rush and return a punt for touchdowns in the same postseason game. He caught a touchdown pass in the NFC title game but muffed a punt deep in his territory.
Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell is just the fifth rookie coach to make it to the Super Bowl. And he's trying to join George Seifert (49ers) and Don McCafferty (Colts) as coaches to win Super Bowls in their first season. Sean Payton, whose speciality is offense, already can be called the best Saints coach ever seeing as how he has guided them to the first Super Bowl in the 43-year history of the franchise.
Three key matchups
1. Colts DE Dwight Freeney vs. Saints LT Jermon Bushrod
The first question is whether Freeney, who had 131/2 sacks during the regular season, will be 100 percent after tearing a ligament in his right ankle in the AFC title game. Bushrod never started a game before this season and was forced into the lineup when Pro Bowl T Jammal Brown was hurt in the preseason. Bushrod did a good job but would likely be no match for a healthy Freeney. If Bushrod can handle Freeney by himself, that would free up Saints TE Jeremy Shockey and the Saints running backs to become receivers.
2. Colts QB Peyton Manning vs. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams
Williams' plan in the NFC title game was to batter Vikings QB Brett Favre, and it worked. He says he wants to do the same with Manning. But Manning, top, is rarely sacked or pressured and is a master at carving up teams that blitz him. And for as much as the Saints pressured Favre, they have just one sack in the postseason. Then again, maybe Williams is playing possum and will drop seven or eight defenders into coverage. Probably not a bad idea considering how much Saints corners struggled against Minnesota. Watch for the interesting showdown between a pair of All-Pros: Colts TE Dallas Clark and Saints S Darren Sharper.
3. Saints QB Drew Brees vs. Colts secondary
Let's assume the Colts can't pressure Brees because of DE Dwight Freeney's bum ankle. That means the Colts secondary will have to stop a Brees offense that scored 510 points in the regular season and 76 more in two postseason games. Adding to Indianapolis' concerns is New Orleans not only has a fine set of receivers but likes to throw to TE Jeremy Shockey and RB Reggie Bush. If Bush can get single coverage on a safety, he could become a nightmare for the Colts.
The Colts will win if …
They can protect QB Peyton Manning. If Manning has time, forget it. He will pick the Saints apart. Indianapolis had the worst rushing attack in the league during the regular season, but it has run the ball just well enough in the playoffs to keep teams from sending the farm after Manning. If Manning isn't rushed, he has plenty of options all over the field. And the guess is he won't make any stupid decisions to help out the Saints like Vikings QB Brett Favre did.
The Saints will win if …
They score, a lot. If the Saints are going to win, it will be in a shootout. Fortunately for them, they have a quarterback who can put up plenty of points. But the Saints can't come up empty when they get into Colts territory like they did against the Vikings. They must kick more field goals than punts. They must score more touchdowns than field goals. When the Colts get a stop, the Saints' chances go way down because the Colts are going to score on most of their possessions.