There were 20 minutes left in halftime when Saints head coach Sean Payton walked past Thomas Morstead and casually said, “We’re running it.” The Saints’ punter then sat in his locker for the rest of the break TERRIFIED because he knew his team’s chance to win Super Bowl XLIV might rest on his right foot.
Normally, punters aren’t involved in too many key plays. But Morstead was now being called on to execute the play called “ambush” on the opening kickoff of the second half. Ambush was their onside kick play and if successful, New Orleans would have the ball and all the momentum. If it failed, the Colts would have a short field and a chance to score an easy touchdown that might put the game away.
Morstead, who never kicked off until this season, hadn’t practiced onside kicks much. When asked to try some out, his position coach and former Saints kicker John Carney heard he had played soccer and told him to “Bend It Like Beckham” so that’s what he worked on.
When they came back out of the locker room for warm-ups, Morstead punted a bunch of times and then boomed one kickoff like he always does so as not to tip off the Colts that something unusual was coming. When the time came for the kickoff, he was excited.
“I knew if I executed we would get the ball,” Morstead said. He did and they did, although not without a scare. Morstead saw one of his teammates recover, but the officials didn’t make a ruling right away.
He started pulling players off the pile until he was pulled off himself. He then heard an official shouting “blue ball, blue ball,” meaning the Colts had it. So he went back to dragging players out of the scrum until the final ruling came awarding the Saints possession.
Rewarding Payton’s gutsy decision, the Saints scored on the drive to take the lead for the first time. Though Indianapolis went back ahead, New Orleans was now playing with supreme confidence. They took the lead again late in the 4th and went on to become Super Bowl Champs, in no small part thanks to a well-designed and executed ambush!
THERE IT IS!