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An oral history of Ambush, the play that changed Super Bowl XLIV

Saints Coach Sean Payton made bold decision to open second half with onside kick

Associated Press photos of the New Orleans Saints onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV.

"So the Who Dat Nation and the favorites from the Hoosier State locked in a tight one heading to the second half."

- Jim Nantz, CBS play-by-play announcer

"Well, Jim a lot of teams when they play the Colts they like to defer just so they don't have to face this situation where Peyton Manning gets the football in the second half after he's gone in and looked at all those pictures you see him looking at every time he comes off the field."

- Phil Simms, CBS analyst

"Onside kick to start the second half!"

- Simms

"We started working on that kick with Thomas Morstead in December thinking we'll put some more tools in his tool belt for the playoffs and he picked it up really well. Very talented player who also kicked field goals and kicked off in college so it was not hard for Thomas to learn that kick."

- former Saints kicker/consultant John Carney

"He kind of played around with it and had worked it, worked it and worked it so we knew that he was able to kick it but it's kind of difficult to practice, particularly down there. We did the situation with a full team, I don't know four, five, six, 10 times maybe. Certainty, it was his kick more than anything."

- Greg McMahon, Saints special teams coach

"So we saw film on it. I maybe practiced it once that week and then we didn't really practice the whole bye week leading up to the Super Bowl. So just really the week of the Super Bowl."

- Thomas Morstead, Saints punter/kickoff specialist

"When we get to that position during the Super Bowl I just remember all of a sudden bam, the first half is over and I knew we were in a great opportunity to do what we wanted to do but it went by very quickly."

- McMahon

"Going into the locker room during the Super Bowl, Coach Payton went up to Coach Mac (McMahon) and said 'we're starting the second half with the onside kick.'"

- Carney

"He said he was going to call it and Coach Payton notoriously is as confident and cocky as he wants to be."

- former Saints cornerback Jabari Greer

"You know, this is something that we sincerely we've game-planned, it's an executed play, so yeah, we pretty much knew that we were going to run that coming out of the half."

- McMahon

"When Coach comes in and says, you know it's 10-6 at the halftime, everyone was confident and we definitely had a risky group that likes to take risks but at the same time there was probably definitely some uncertainty."

- former Saints defensive end Jeff Charleston

"We told Thomas Morstead that and Thomas Morstead sat in his locker with his helmet on, his chin strap buckled and didn't move for 30 minutes."

- Carney

"I definitely, my heart was racing and John Carney was consoling me in the locker room telling me it was going to be alright and trying to pump me up a little bit."

- Morstead

"We checked with him from time to time if he was OK. We couldn't tell if he was comatose or in shock, but he would nod, he wouldn't speak, he would just nod that he was OK."

- Carney

"At halftime, instead of being 12 minutes, it's 36 minutes or something, so the Who are like rocking in the background and I'm you know, panicked out of my mind."

- Morstead

"But I think coming out of the locker room, the biggest thing as players was you know you're keeping the biggest secret at this moment. You know you're trying to hide that and as a player you're almost like 'Man I can't give this away,' and I think everyone probably felt the same way because you're getting ready, you know what's going to happen and no one else knows.  So there's only, you know maybe 70 guys in the world, that know and you have to keep this a secret."

- Charleston

"I was warming up, how I normally would and my buddy had been drafted by the Colts that year and was their punter and kickoff specialist so we were warming up next to each other and last thing I said to him to before we kind of went to our sidelines, 'tell your returner not to even bother bringing it out, it's going to be out of the end zone,' something like that and he said 'oh OK, let's see what happens.'"

- Morstead

"Steps into the football and it's an onside kick and it's going to be covered up by Chris Reiss I believe he had it momentarily, they're still fighting for it, no indication yet."

- WWL-870 play-by-play man Jim Henderson

"And it's Saints football. They recover the onside kick! What a fearless to start for the second half, really unbelievable decision by Sean Payton."

- Nantz and Simms

"He went out there and performed it perfectly. We recovered the kick, we get another possession."

- Carney

"We knew we had to steal a possession. If Peyton Manning would have gotten the ball at the 40-yard line going in, would have scored, and would have put him up 17-6. That's hard to come back from."

- Chris Reiss, Saints special teams ace

"First thing I do remember, was Jonathan Casillas coming from our right side to the left, all the way across. He's really the hero of the play. Chris Reiss did recover it but Casillas, Jonathan Casillas, ran all the across and speared some guy that was trying to take that ball from Chris. If you watch the replay you can see him come in and just hit the guy perfect and Chris will tell you he kind of had the ball lodged between his legs and had a hold of it but he didn't have it into his chest."

- Morstead

"Jonathan's a key guy in that play. His ability going in. We've always really challenged our players, any time there's a scrum like that, you have to be in the fray."

- McMahon

"It was on after that. It was just on. It was almost like a Saints home game. I just remember that too. Our section was I guess, it just felt like a home game."

- Amanda Shaw, New Orleans musician

"Everybody was just crazy, crazy. It was just unbelievable, unbelievable. But that's what you got to do to win the Super Bowl so you know Sean Payton knew how to step up to the plate."

- Kim Thomas, Saints season ticket holder since 1967

"Hartley kicks three kicks, three field goals of over 40 yards, never been done before in the Super Bowl. We do the onside kick. I mean, that's crazy."

- George Custer, Saints season ticket holders since 1967

"You know, I still don't believe it happened. I keep saying that and I still don't believe it happened, but it did."

- Peter Finney, longtime Times Picayune columnist

"It definitely changed the momentum because I think from there on out we knew we were going to win."

- Charleston

"We knew that it was our time. When Chris Reiss came out with that ball, like 'Yeah, it's not going to happen today Indianapolis.'"

- Greer

"Set up screen to Thomas, inside the 10, Thomas leaping at the 5, and he's in and the Saints have taken the lead at the Super Bowl!"

- Nanz

"Second and goal, this time they've made the catch and the touchdown! Jeremy Shockey."

- Nantz

"Picked off, look out! Gets past Manning and it's Tracey Porter taking it all the way! Touchdown New Orleans!"

- Simms

"Fourth and goal, Manning. Incomplete. The Saints are going to do it!"

  • Simms**

"The franchise that was born eight months after the first Super Bowl game. They've struggled for years. They have been the full embodiment of their community. A sign of hope. For the Saints, the self-respect. And I tell you, Mardi Gras is about to break out here in Miami."

- Nantz

"But it was unbelievable and you could see the way the city .. it was just unbelievable. What happened after, when they won the game, the people who turned out was just colossal. That won't ever happen again I don't think."

- Finney

"For me as a specialist, any time I feel that sort of pressure or anxiety to perform, I can go back to that time and say I've done it in the most heated of times. And it gives you a kind of positive calm about whatever you're about to do because you know you've through on the biggest moment ever."

- Morstead

"That was a special time. That was a special team. It was a special season. Was it a big play? Sure. But, doggone, Porter's play was big and Lance Moore's two-point play was big and we are team and it's the ultimate team sport. So we are just happy we had the ability to contribute, in our way, to help us win a World Championship. That's never going to be taken away so that's special for all of us, not just the one play."

- McMahon

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