By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 9, 2010; D03
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton said Monday that he told his special-teams players Sunday morning that he would call an onside kick at some point during the Super Bowl. It was only a matter of when.
At halftime, with The Who on stage on the field, Payton announced in the locker room not only that the onside kick would be used to open the second half, but that he'd scripted the eight offensive plays for the Saints that would follow after they recovered the kick.
The Saints made the play -- called "ambush," according to Payton -- work to gain possession of the ball and their offense followed with a touchdown to turn a 10-6 halftime deficit into a 13-10 lead.
"The players did a great job making me look good with that call," Payton told reporters at the traditional morning-after news conference for the Super Bowl's winning coach and most valuable player. "It was calculated. It was well thought out by our special teams coaches. We thought the risk-reward was worth it."
Quarterback Drew Brees, the game's MVP, said the onside kick changed the momentum for him and his teammates. "It was an unbelievably gutsy call, but one we were behind and knew was going to work," Brees said. "At that point [after the recovery], we all felt, 'The game has come to us.' "
These are times to savor for the Saints and their followers after the team turned its first Super Bowl appearance into its first Super Bowl victory by beating the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17 on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.
"We're gonna enjoy this for a while," Brees said. "I think the city of New Orleans is enjoying it right now. Don't expect anyone in New Orleans to go to work today -- or maybe the next two weeks, considering that Mardi Gras is next week. But we all deserve to enjoy this."
Brees said he still was sorting through about 500 congratulatory messages from friends.
"I had to wake up this morning and say to my wife, 'Did yesterday really happen?' " Brees said. "And she said, 'Yes, it did.' . . . This is something that will always be part of us. It will be part of our legacy, and it's special."
Payton grabbed the Lombardi Trophy and held it aloft while addressing reporters at the Super Bowl media center.
"This thing laid in my bed next to me last night," Payton said. "I rolled over last night. I probably drooled on it. Man, there's nothing like it."
Payton said he went to sleep around 4 a.m. "At about 3 a.m., when it was quiet, I took the elevator up," he said. "I put this trophy down on the desk and said a prayer and thanked God for these special times that don't come around very often."
The Saints are scheduled to participate in a parade Tuesday in New Orleans. Planners had intended to conduct that parade for the Saints whether they'd won or lost Sunday, yet another sign of the unique bond between the franchise and the rebuilding city.
"We all look at it as a responsibility," Brees said. "Our city, our fans give us strength, and we owe them that. It was for them. There's no organization and no city that we would want to win this for more than the city of New Orleans."
Payton and Brees went to New Orleans in 2006, just as the team was returning to the city after being displaced from New Orleans in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. They have been cornerstones of the franchise's revitalization, and have helped to instill the hometown pride that exists within the club's locker room.
"When you think about the relationship between the Saints and the Gulf Coast and the Saints and New Orleans, it was more than just a football game and more than just a football team," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday, adding that the early indications were that the record-setting television ratings for Sunday's game were up about 10 percent from last year's Super Bowl. "The hopes and dreams and struggles of the people in that region were reflected in that team."
Payton said the Saints would take 24 to 48 hours to celebrate before beginning to tackle the challenges of trying to repeat.
"There's probably never enough in terms of the challenge," Payton said. "When you've got a quarterback like Drew Brees in the prime of his career, it's never enough."