Payton: Onside kick almost went wrong way

In a live chat on NFL.com Monday, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton revealed that his call of an onside kick to open the second half of Super Bowl XLIV last month required more than just guts and execution. He also needed to do some last-second scrambling.

Trailing 10-6 to the Indianapolis Colts, Payton made the decision during halftime to open the third quarter with the onside kick that was recovered by New Orleans and became the turning point in the Saints’ 31-17 win. At the time, however, he did not consider which direction the team would be kicking.

As standard procedure coming out of the locker room for the third quarter, officials asked Saints captains which end zone they wanted to defend to open the second half. With weather not being a factor, they instinctively opted to go the opposite direction they had gone in the second quarter. Problem.

“When we did (the onside kick), we were supposed to go left to right,” Payton said in the NFL.com chat, “but that would have meant the kick went toward the Colts sideline, which we didn’t want. I told the officials that the captains were wrong and we wanted to go right to left — so the onside kick was toward our sideline.”

Mike Pereira, NFL VP of officiating, confirmed that there is nothing wrong with a team changing its mind like that before the kickoff.

So the Saints kicked off from right to left, and Thomas Morstead‘s onside kick bounced toward the Saints sideline and a scrum ensued. Saints safety Chris Reis recovered the ball at New Orleans’ 42-yard line and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees capped a 58-yard drive with a 16-yard scoring pass to Pierre Thomas to give the Saints their first lead, 13-10.

Among other topics Payton discussed in the chat, he reiterated that that the Saints still want safety Darren Sharper back even though they did not choose to lock up the free-agent-to-be with a franchise tag.

“He was certainly a big part of our success this season,” Payton said, “and as we start the free agent signing period this week, he’ll be one of the guys we look to have back.”

For the complete chat transcript, click here.

– Craig Ellenport

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