Defense wins championships. That’s something we hear a lot in sports. The great Steel Curtain Steelers teams of the 1970’s were known for their outstanding defense. The 1985 Bears, the Brett Favre Packers teams (despite having No. 4) were also known for the defense.
All we heard leading up to last year’s Super Bowl was how it was going to be the daunted Steelers defense against the high-flying Arizona Cardinals offense. This year, it was he-who-scored-last wins. The high-octane Saints led by Drew Brees versus the methodical, surgical passing attack of Peyton Manning and company.
But in the end, it came down to special teams and defense. As it always does. Don’t believe me? Take away all three Garrett Hartley field goals (the dude hit three - easily -from over 40-yards, a Super Bowl record), the Matt Stover field goal and the Tracy Porter INT-TD return. The Saints would lead 15-14. Of course, you could argue that the Saints would not have gone for the 2-point conversion if the score had been different so let’s just say the game is 14-all.
So bring Hartley back into the equation. What does it mean to have a kicker drill one field goal from 40+ yards, much less three? Ask Peyton Manning. Leading the game in the 4th quarter 17-16, the Colts turned to 42-year old Matt Stover to kick a 51-yard field goal.
Now, I had Stover on my fantasy team this year after the injury to Adam Vinatieri and he scored some good points for me, but even I knew that he couldn’t hit from 50 yards. Jim Caldwell definitely should’ve known.
This season, Stover hit nine of his 11 field goal attempts (in 10 regular season games) with his longest boot going 43 yards. His career best is 55-yards, which he hit his rookie year, 19 years ago (1991). The last time he hit a 50-yard field goal was in the first preseason game in 2007. He is no Adam Vinatieri.
Speaking of Vinatieri and the importance of kickers, let me ask you these questions.
How many Super Bowl rings does Tom Brady have? The answer…….3.
How many Super Bowl rings does Peyton Manning have? The answer…..1.
Now, how many titles have the two star quarterbacks combined for without Adam Vinatieri?
The answer is ZERO! If Vinatieri had been healthy enough to kick in SB44, he would more than likely have made that 51-yarder and changed the complexion of the game entirely.
Of course, one can only speculate at this point. But it is worth noting that the seemingly most irrelevant player on a team - maybe after the punter - could have the most influence on the biggest stage of the year. And yet he does, more often than not.
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I am a 34-year old father of three, married for almost 15 years. I work as a full-time driver for UPS and as the editor of SodoMojo.com (part of the FanSided network). I have aspirations to be a Major League Baseball General Manager.