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Morstead's well-executed onside kick goes down in Super Bowl lore

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Here's how New Orleans Saints rookie Thomas Morstead spent the final 20 minutes of halftime at Super Bowl XLIV: He sat silently at his locker.

"I wasn't worried," Morstead said Sunday night. "I was just terrified."

The Indianapolis Colts wouldn't have known it. With one squibbed kick, Morstead -- a punter by trade -- booted himself into the collection of Super Bowl plays that will be shown for years and years to come.

Saints coach Sean Payton told Morstead with 20 minutes left in the extended halftime that the special play he'd worked on for the grandtotal of the last 1½ weeks -- an onside kick, something he'd never tried before -- would be how his team opened the second half against the Colts, despite trailing by four points.

Morstead flawlessly handled the surprising call. The Saints got the ball and a Super-sized shot of momentum, then became NFL champions for the first time a little while later with a 31-17 victory.

"It was telling because when coach called that play, it made sense to me," Morstead said.

It all happened by accident.

When the Saints' regular placekicker, Garrett Hartley, was suspended for the first four games of the regular season for using a banned stimulant, they brought 45-year-old veteran John Carney back to the team. Hartley eventually won his job back, and Carney was released but retained as a kicking consultant.

And it was Carney who told the Saints to use Morstead's powerful right leg on kickoffs.

At the time, who could have known what a genius idea that was?

When the second half began, Morstead -- who booted a kickoff deep while warming up for the second half, making sure the Colts saw him do so as if nothing unusual was about to happen -- angled the ball low off the ground, to his left, then ran over to the spot where it was recovered.

Saints ball? Colts ball?

From the stands, the 1-minute scrum for the ball as officials tried to sort it all out had to have seemed like an eternity.


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On the field, it was worse.

"When I hit it, it bounced off somebody, Chris Reis recovered it, then it kind of squirted between his legs and then he recovered again right before the dogpile happened," Morstead said. "I went over there trying to pull guys off, and then I got pulled off by somebody ... and I hear a referee saying, 'Blue ball, blue ball,' like the Colts recovered. That's when I tried pulling guys off again."

Morstead was certain that Reis had the ball. Sure enough, he did ... and the rest is Saints history.

"Absolutely not," Morstead said when asked if his kick won the Super Bowl. "It was one small win, and a whole bunch of those added up to a big win."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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