Pretty interesting read here on Sean Payton's ballsy play calling during the Super Bowl. Payton made at least two incredibly daring calls during the game. Both actually ended up helping New Orleans. The first came near the end of the first half when Payton went for it on 4th and 1 from Indy's 1 yard line, rather than kicking the field goal. The second was the onsides kick to start the second half. As far as the first play, an interesting statistical analysis (warning: pdf file) showed that coaches would benefit much more if they were to go for it more often on fourth down, particularly when they are deep in their opponent's territory. How much worse? Even when they fail (as New Orleans did -- Thomas was stuffed) the other team is forced into a terrible situation wrt field position. So bad in fact that on average a team lose 1.5 points per drive when they get the ball inside their own 2. Essentially New Orleans faced these choices when considering Indy's field position: So they gain almost as many points on average by missing a TD as they do by scoring a FG and giving Indy decent field position. While Manning would certainly perform better than average when pinned down in his own EZ, he would perform at an even higher level when given the ball with a chance to make something happen. There was also the onside kick to start the second half. According to Football Outsiders surprise onside kicks are recovered 55% of the time. Naturally this percentage would drop if the kick weren't a surprise anymore. However, a team must only recover their onside kick around 37% of the time in order for it to net a positive result. To put it simply, I think Sean Payton showed you have to keep your opponent guessing. Never let them get comfortable, and never be predictable. I think that NFL coaches by and large are too heavily scrutinized to make such controversial decisions. If they make the easy safe choice and kick the FG on 4th down and the other guy drives to win, everyone throws up their hands and says it's the defense's fault for not stopping the other team. But at least the head coach is safe. He refrained from taking any risk.