Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

"Men, I want you just thinking of one word all season. One word and one word only: Super Bowl.” -- Bill Peterson, football coach

Super Bowl XLIV is finally here. Players on the winning team will earn $83,000 each, with players on the losing team earning $42,000. But more important than the money is the Super Bowl ring each member of the organization will receive and cherish for the rest of their lives.

Most Super Bowls have not been close games. Only 14 of the previous 43 have been decided by seven points or fewer, although recent games have been closer. Only five of the first 22 were decided by seven points or fewer. Nine of the last 21 have been decided by seven points or fewer, including five of the last eight Super Bowls, which were decided by four points or less.

Did you know that the last four league MVPs to reach the Super Bowl lost? Tom Brady (New England ’07), Shaun Alexander (Seattle ’05), Rich Gannon (Oakland ’02) and Kurt Warner (St. Louis, ’01).

What key statistic enables a team to reach the Super Bowl? From the incredible research of NFL Network’s own George Li, here are a few indicators. The follow are teams’ records in the Super Bowl depending on each Super Bowl stat:

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS VS. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: QUESTIONS AND THOUGHTS

Will Dwight Freeney play?

Of course he’ll try to play, but the more important question will be: Can he play effectively? Hard to believe he can push off an ankle that offers very little support. Freeney is a competitive person and will never be able to sit back and watch the game. The Saints will be prepared for him to play and will make sure they have the right protections called when he’s in the game -- at least early in the game so they can gauge his effectiveness.

Saints love seams…Colts safeties will be challenged…

Besides the Eagles, the Saints are one of the best teams in the NFL throwing the ball down the field specifically in the seam area of the field. The Saints had three different receivers with 15 or more yards per reception this season (Robert Meachem, 16.0; Devery Henderson, 15.8; Marques Colston, 15.3). They love to run a fake slant on one side and hit the seam down the middle on the other side of the field. The Colts safeties must play their best football of the season, especially not overreacting to pump fakes.

Who’s a better play caller, Sean Payton or Peyton Manning?

Tough question, but is each different. Manning is calling plays based on what he knows the defense will be in, while Payton is calling plays anticipating what the defense will do. Payton is very aggressive with his calls, but this year, he has called more runs than ever before, which has given his team more toughness. The Saints are ranked second in the NFL in rushes and completions combined with an average of 53, and they need to be at that number today to win.

There are only two formations in football…

This is a true statement. There are only two real formations in the game: two receivers to each side, or three receivers to one side and one to the other. Now, who is where and where they are aligned is a whole other story, but defenses in the league have their adjustments called to 2 by 2 or 3 by 1. The Colts use basic formations to allow Manning to get an early peek at the defense, make the defense declare its true intentions, then he calls his play. He normally reads the one player who offers the most clues of what to expect — last week it was strong safety Jim Leonhard of the Jets. This week, he will be focusing on Darren Sharper.

Saints need to stay close until the fourth…

As we all know, the Colts have won seven games this year in the fourth quarter, but the Saints are also very good. The Saints scored the most points in the fourth quarter this season and allowed the fewest points in the fourth quarter (they outscored opponents 139-48 in fourth). So for the Saints to win, they must not allow the game to get away from them early. They must get the game to the fourth quarter and either be ahead (best case scenario) or down six points or less.

Save something for the fourth…

For the Saints to win the game, they will need a key play in the fourth quarter, which means they’ll need to save a call, offensively or defensively, for the right time. This is critical on defense for the Saints. They must save a call for late in the game, something that Manning has never seen before that will help them get off the field. Patience is a virtue for the Saints. In the 1968 Ice Bowl, the Packers saved a play called GIVE 54 for the right moment -- the run that allowed Chuck Mercein to take the ball to the three-yard line. The Saints must save a call, just like the Packers.

Red zone means everything in this game…

I know I’ve been harping on this all week, but the key to the game will be the red zone -- and which team can force field goals and not allow touchdowns. The Saints must play their best game on defense in the red zone and they must play their best in the run game because the Colts, for all their passing, love to run the ball in the end zone if they can. The Saints are the No. 2 team in the NFL in red zone defense. The Colts are 13th, but their team speed is more obvious when the field shrinks, and this makes their defense very effective in the red zone.

The Saints need to think Canadian football: Don’t try to slow the game down, speed it up…

All the ball-control talk about how to play the Colts is really nonsense. Just ask the Dolphins. The Saints will get the ball at least 12 times in the game, and they need to score at least seven of those times. They need to be aggressive and not worry about third down. Try and get first downs in two downs. Create a sense of urgency for the Colts.

Who wins and why?

I like the Colts in a close game, 27-20. I feel the Saints will play well and will be in the game, and if they play it right, they might have a chance to win in the end. The Saints will move the ball effectively, but so will the Colts. And that’s where I give the Colts an edge. I’m not sure the Saints have enough talent to slow down the Colts, and I actually think the Colts might run the ball effectively in the game.

STORIES TO SHARE...

The Secret of Jimmy Yen

A jury of distinguished scholars and scientists, including Albert Einstein and Orville Wright, thought enough of Jimmy Yen to vote him one of the top 10 Modern Revolutionaries of the Twentieth Century. Yet all he did was teach Chinese peasants to read.

What made that so amazing was that for 4,000 years, reading and writing in China was only done by the scholars. Everybody knew, including the peasants themselves, that peasants were incapable of learning.

That thoroughly ingrained cultural belief was Jimmy Yen's first "impossible" barrier. The second barrier was the Chinese language itself, consisting of 40,000 characters, each signifying a different word! The third barrier was the lack of technology and good roads. How could Jimmy Yen reach the 350 million peasants in China?

Impossible odds, an imposs ibly huge goal -- and yet he had almost attained it when he was forced (by Communism) to leave his country.

Did he give up? No. He learned from defeat and expanded his goal: Teach the rest of the Third World to read. Practical reading programs, like the ones he invented in China, started pumping out literate people like a gushing oil well in the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ghana, India. People became literate. For the first time in their entire genetic history, they had access to the accumulated knowledge of the human race.

For those of us who take literacy for granted, I'd like you to consider for a moment how narrow your world would be if you'd never learned how to read and there was no access to radios or TVs.

Some 180,000 Chinese peasants were hired by the Allied Forces in WWI as laborers in the war effort. Most of them had no idea -- not a clue -- where England, Germany or France were. They didn't know what they were being hired to do, and didn't even know what a war was!

Jimmy Yen was a savior to them.

What was the secret of Jimmy Yen's success? He found a real need, and found in himself a strong desire to answer that need. And he took some action: He tried to do something about it even though it seemed impossible. He worked long hours. And he started with what he had in front of him and gradually took on more and more, a little upon a little.

The English author Thomas Carlyle said, "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand." And that's what Jimmy Yen did. He started out teaching a few peasants to read, with no desks, no pens, no money, no overhead projectors. He started from where he found himself and did what was clearly at hand.

And that's all you need to do. Start now. Start here. And do what lies clearly at hand.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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