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Cool cat Payton

Posted: 10:10 a.m.

MIAMI - The Bengals play the Saints next season at Paul Brown Stadium, so call this the first scouting report of the 2010 season.

You might as well start with the Super Bowl champs and you have to start with their coach and so you start where the biggest day of Sean Payton's life is turning into the next day. It is about two hours after the Saints stunned the world, the Colts, and the French Quarter with their 31-17 victory and Payton is walking to the bus that will take him to the postgame party. He stops to tell three reporters a story from his days coaching at Miami University, which is about 45 minutes from PBS in Oxford, Ohio. They had just come off a stretch playing the Wildcats of Northwestern and the Bearcats of Cincinnati and they were about to break the huddle to play the Bobcats of Ohio University when the captain that day bellowed, "Beat the Bearcats. One, two, three," when someone interrupted and said, "We're playing Bobcats."

"He said, 'Hey, we're beating some cat's (butt) today,' " Payton said. "We're beating some cat's (butt) today."

Cue the weak scribe laughter.

If you think that sounds like a pretty cool cat, you should have seen how he beat the Colts' butt about three hours earlier.

Try an onside kick.

Try an onside kick on the opening kickoff of the second half.

Try an onside kick on the opening kickoff of the second half when the other team has the most prolific quarterback in history and you're already losing, 10-6.

"What coach at halftime of a Super Bowl game is going to tell his team we're kicking an onside kick?" asked Saints linebacker Scott Shanle. "We take chances, we're aggressive, that's why we're champs. The defense said, 'Let's do it.' It changed the entire game."

Kicker Thomas Morstead knew the Saints were going to do it at some point Sunday night. He just didn't know when. And he wished Payton had told him at the end of halftime instead of at the beginning. The Who's concert extended halftime while Payton was playing "Guess who?"

"I was sitting in front of my locker terrified the whole time," Morstead said.

But he got the kick he wanted. He called it "a sideways spiral that's supposed to hit the ground and kick back and it did. ... You have to be more aggressive than your opponent."

Aren't these games almost always decided by guys that never get interviewed at these things? Stanford Jennings, meet Chris Reis and Jonathan Casillas.

The ball bounced off the Colts' Hank Baskett and Reis, a third-year backup safety from Georgia Tech, fell on it. So did Casillas, a rookie linebacker from Wisconsin. They were pulling for the ball. Reis told him to let go, he had it. But Casillas saw a blue glove on the ball.

"I know we don't wear blue gloves," Casillas said. "When I saw the blue glove wasn't there anymore, I let it go."

The play-by-play sheet gave Casillas the recovery but he said, "It doesn't matter who got it. What matters is that our offense had the ball."

At their own 42 to be exact. And 3:19 later the Saints scored to take the lead. An onside kick turned the Super Bowl upside down.

"That was the turning point. That changed the momentum, that changed everything," Reis said. "It wasn't just me. It was Thomas who kicked it, it was the guys who blocked it, it was the guys trying to get people off them, it was a team effort. I had a pretty good grip on it. I had an arm and a hand on it.

"I'll play for a coach like that any time. A coach who wants to take risks at any time. That's the team I want to play for. I don't want to play for a conservative team. We play hard, we play fast, we're aggressive, and we won the Super Bowl."

"You wouldn't exactly call (Payton) a conservative play-caller," said linebacker Scott Fujita. "He plays to win. That's why I love him."

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said his unit told Payton, "We've got your back," and Williams was all for it because it took quarterback Payton Manning off the field and he was confident his changing looks to start the half would stop him if it didn't.

"We felt pretty good about it because of the look we were getting," Payton said. "We worked on it during the week. It comes easier when it's calculated. We knew going into the game we were going to use it. We just didn't know when. A game like tonight, it was important to be aggressive. To go out and try to win and not just play conservatively. Our players, I'm proud of them because they're the ones that have to execute and do that."

So the first scouting report of 2010 is in the bag.

Payton comes to town to play another litter of cats. It could be the closest thing to riverboat gambling Cincinnati gets.

Payton coolly invited the scribes to his Kenny Chesney concert.

"It's going to be a good lineup," he said.

Not as good as what he sent out there for the second half.

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