Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts signals under center against the New Orleans Saints during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
What's more amazing: The fact that the New Orleans Saints have climbed all the way to the top of the football world or the fact that Eli Manning will go down in history as the Manning brother who best handled the pressure of playing in the Super Bowl? It has to be the latter, simply because the former was an outcome people had been considering for the last two weeks.
Eli's place in the Manning family pecking order is the most interesting local angle to this year's Super Bowl but it is far from the only one. Both the Giants and Jets could learn some lessons from what went down in Miami. Since we opened with Eli, we'll stay there for a moment because Sunday night proved that he's the best thing the Giants have going for them.
More than anything else, the Saints and Colts made it to the Super Bowl because they have elite quarterbacks and passing games. Super Bowl fourth quarters aside, Eli isn't at the same level as Peyton or Drew Brees, but he's not that far off either. He took a major leap forward this season and has a deep arsenal of threats catching his passes.
The other good news for the Giants is that the Saints proved you can overhaul a defense in one offseason by changing schemes without adding a slew of high-profile free agents. That's going to be Perry Fewell's job with the Giants, because they desperately need the kind of infusion that Gregg Williams brought to New Orleans. Aggressive, gambling defense carried the Saints this season and it was nowhere to be found during the Giants' season.
Alas, not all the news is good. Sunday night's game turned, in part, because of audacious risks taken by Saints coach Sean Payton and that gambling defense. That's not Tom Coughlin's style. He may be more animated than Colts coach/wax figure Jim Caldwell, but he's just as conservative in his tendencies. For the Giants to bounce back in 2010, the offense has to be about Eli and the defense has to be about attacking. Are those changes Coughlin can believe in?
Coaching styles is a good transition point to the Jets. Rex Ryan certainly isn't afraid of attacking opposing offenses, although it was more than a little disconcerting to see how much better the Saints played Peyton than the Jets did a couple of weeks ago. Maybe that's a matter of familiarity with Ryan's base schemes or just a sign of how bad Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman are in pass coverage, but it was a nice reminder that the Jets defense probably wasn't as good as they thought it was this season.
We started with one quarterback, so it's fitting to end with the other one. Mark Sanchez isn't close to Brees or either Manning yet, but their play on Sunday confirmed the Jets made the right move to trade up and draft him last year. It's a risk, of course, but this year's title was won because the Saints took big risks for years up to and including the game itself.
Sanchez is already getting the endorsement experience of an elite signal caller, so it should be a breeze to take care of the football end of things.