After all, the only people who will find themselves offended during Super Bowl XLIV will be defensive players. With quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Drew Brees going head to head, the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints have a chance to set a record for the highest-scoring Super Bowl in history.
Is it likely? Eh, probably not. But at least there’s some hope.
The San Francisco 49ers laid a 49-26 smackdown on the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX, and while the game was a dud, its 75 total points were the most in the history of the super season finale. And, hey, that game was in Miami, so maybe there’s something in the water.
What did it take for the record point production? The Niners and Chargers combined for 10 touchdowns, one field goal and a pair of two-point conversions. Four of the touchdowns resulted on plays that stretched at least 30 yards, including one kickoff return. And, of course, 49ers quarterback Steve Young hung six touchdowns on the Chargers’ helpless defense. The recipe shows that two teams need big passing days, high rates of efficiency — obviously, touchdowns over field goals — and a defensive or special teams score would be pretty helpful, too.
Which brings us to the Colts and Saints. New Orleans scored a league-best 510 points in the regular season, which was the ninth-highest total in NFL history. Including the playoffs, the Saints are averaging 32.6 points per game this season. Defensively, the Saints are surrendering 21.3 points per game, including their two postseason contests, and the 341 points they allowed in the regular season ranked 20th in the league.
The Colts scored 416 regular-season points, which ranked seventh in the NFL, and they’ve put up 25.9 points per game this year, including the playoffs. They had the eighth-ranked defense in the regular season, giving up 307 points. Including the playoffs, they’ve surrendered 18.2 points per clip.
If the Saints and Colts reach their offensive averages, they’d only be good for 58.5 points in the Super Bowl, which is a tad bit unrealistic since there are no half-points in football. Anyway, a 31-28 game would certainly be entertaining, but it would also be 16 points shy of tying the Super Bowl record. That just won’t get it done.
Each team is capable of scoring quickly, so we might get this thing back on track. The New Orleans offense generated 89 scoring drives this season, and 30 of them (33.7 percent) came in five plays or less. The Saints have also scored nine defensive touchdowns and three special teams touchdowns. Their defense has allowed 67 scoring drives, and 21 (31.3 percent) came in five plays or less.
Meanwhile, 18 of the Colts’ 76 scoring drives (23.7 percent) happened in five plays or less, and they’ve had two defensive scores and one special teams touchdown. Indy’s defense is a little stingier in that regard, as 13-of-64 scoring drives (20.3 percent) came in five plays or less.
Both teams have some serious offensive playmakers who have helped out their respective quarterbacks. The Saints boast big-time wide receiver Marques Colston, along with burners Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem. They’ve also got a trio of big-play running backs in Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell, and tight end Jeremy Shockey is a huge threat in the passing game.
The Colts’ main threats are wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark, but even though both were — by their standards — relatively quiet against the Jets, the Colts still scored 30 points. Wideouts Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie picked up the slack, and the Indy offense didn’t miss a beat.
While the notion of a record-setting point total is exciting, it doesn’t necessarily mean the game will be competitive. If past point totals are an indication, you might leave the game on for the commercials rather than the spirit of competition.
Of the Super Bowl’s four highest-scoring affairs, three were blowouts, including the 49ers-Chargers snooze-fest. The Dallas Cowboys slaughtered the Buffalo Bills, 52-17, in Super Bowl XXVII, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers smoked the Oakland Raiders, 48-21, in Super Bowl XXXVII. Three decades ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers slipped past the Cowboys, 35-31, in Super Bowl XIII, which was also in Miami.
We all love a pile of points, and a 41-35 game wouldn’t just increase the entertainment value, but it would also set a record. Clearly, the Colts and Saints are capable of going big. Seventy-six points might be just out of their grasp, but it won’t be for a lack of trying.
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