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February 07, 2010

Brees, Saints rally to stun Colts, bring championship, hope to city of New Orleans

   By Charles Chandler

   cchandler@charlotteobserver.com

   MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.New Orleans, the city that four years ago was in post-Katrina shambles, now is home to the Super Bowl champions.

   Line up all the most prolific storybook sports events and there might not be a match to this one.

   Game most valuable player Drew Brees, who has championed the cause of the poor and the hurting during his four years in New Orleans, turned in a masterful performance, outdueling Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV Sunday in a showdown of two of the league’s premier quarterbacks.

   Manning got off to the hot start early, but Brees’ final three quarters were near perfect and the one big mistake either of them made turned out to be the difference in the Saints’ 31-17 victory.

   With barely over three minutes remaining, New Orleans led 24-17 but the Colts were rallying and faced third-and-5 at the Saints’ 31, eyeing a chance for a tying touchdown.

   After a timeout, Manning threw a pass toward receiver Reggie Wayne, but it was off-target and Saints’ cornerback Tracy Porter intercepted it and ran furiously in the direction of the other end zone.

   Pointing in front of him as he ran, Porter went untouched 74 yards for a touchdown, putting the Saints ahead by 14 with 3:12 remaining

   Porter said he knew what to expect on the play from his film study of the Colts.

   “We knew on that third-and-short they stack, and they like the outside release for the slant,” said Porter. “It was great film study by me, a great jump and a great play.”

   Said Manning: “Porter made a great play on the ball. He just made a heck of a play.”

   Though the Colts tried to rally, they were unable to score after that and the Saints went on to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy as the league champions.

   Saints coach Sean Payton thrust the trophy in the air repeatedly and then handed it off to Brees.

   “We just believe in ourselves and we knew that we had an entire city and maybe an entire country behind us,” said Brees. “I’ve tried to imagine what this moment would be like for a long time and it’s even better than I expected. God is great.

   “Mardi Gras may never end. The celebration is never going to end.”

   New Orleans has waited a long time for this. The 43-year-old franchise was born the year after Super Bowl I, and this was the first time they played in the title game.

   As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the favored Colts looked stunned on their sidelines as Saints fans, clad in gold and black, cheered gleefully.

   The scene back in New Orleans in the French Quarter was one of intense celebration.

   Brees finished 32 of 39 passing for 288 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 114.5 passer rating. He tied the Super Bowl record for most pass completions, matching the total New England’s Tom Brady had against Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

   “What can I say?,” said Brees. “We played for so much more than ourselves. We played for our city. We played for the entire Gulf Coast region. We played for the `Who Dat?’ nation that has supported us so well.”

   Brees’ voice cracked as he thought about the state of the Saints and the New Orleans area when he arrived as an unrestricted free agent four years ago.

   “Eighty-five percent of the city was under water,” said Brees. “Most of its residents were evacuated all over the country. People wondered if the city would come back or the organziation would come back.

   “We all looked at one another and said `We’re going to rebuild together; we’re going to lean on each other.’ This is the culmination of all that belief and that faith.”

   Brees was only 3 of 7 passing in the first period, but was 29 of 32 after that – and two of the incompletions were an intentional spike and drop by a receiver.

   Brees’ best moments came on the drive that gave the Saints the lead for keeps.

   Following a missed field goal by the Colts, New Orleans took over at its 41 with 10:39 remaining and the Colts leading 17-16.

   Brees completed all seven of his pass attempts on the drive, to seven different receivers, for 44 yards. The touchdown was a 2-yarder to tight end Jeremy Shockey.

   He also completed a two-point conversion pass that doesn’t count on the official passing statistics, but throw that in and he was 8-for-8 on the drive.

   The favored Colts were bitterly disappointed not to win a second Super Bowl in a four-year span.

    “We were just missing a little,” said Colts coach Jim Caldwell. “We just weren’t quite as sharp” as usual.

   “We’ll just use this disappointment as fuel for next year.”

   Manning, a native of New Orleans, apologized to Colts fans even as he realized people in his home area were celebrating.

   The game started so well for Indianapolis, who jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter as Manning picked apart the Saints defense and mixed in the run more than usual.

   Running back Joseph Addai had 58 yards on five carries in the opening period, a surprising start for an offense that ranked last in the league in rushing during the regular season.

   Indianapolis’ first points came on a 38-yard field goal by Matt Stover after Manning barely missed completing a third-down pass that could’ve led to a touchdown.

   The Colts next took over at their 4-yard line and drove 96 yards in 11 plays to match the longest touchdown drive in Super Bowl history.

   The score came on a 19-yard pass over the middle of the Saints defense to Pierre Garcon.

   Manning noticed that Saints starting cornerback Jabari Greer had left the game with a leg injury three plays earlier after helping tackling Addai at the end of a 26-yard run.

   On the TD, Manning went right at replacement cornerback Usama Young and safety Roman Harper, who was helping cover Garcon on the play.

   The Saints mixed up their defense more in the second quarter and shut down Manning and the offense, holding them to six plays in the period.

   New Orleans outgained Indianapolis 143-15 in total yards in the quarter, but managed only two field goals to cut the Colts’ lead to 10-6 at halftime.

   Down 10-0, the Saints were driving for a possible touchdown when defensive end Dwight Freeney sacked quarterback Drew Brees for a 7-yard loss, forcing a 46-yard field goal by Garrett Heartley.

   Later in the second quarter, the Saints drove to the Indianapolis 1, but stalled there and faced a big decision on fourth-and-goal.

   Coach Sean Payton opted to forgo a field goal and instead to try for a tying touchdown.

   He called for a running play to the right, but Pierre Thomas was met by Colts linebacker Gary Brackett and about three other defenders and was  unable to score.

   The Colts offense wasn’t able to pick up a first down and punted the ball back to the Saints, who managed to get a 44-yard field goal by Harley as the half ended to cut the Indianapolis lead to 10-6.

    After a lengthy halftime show, the Saints pulled a big surprise by trying an onside kick on the second-half kickoff. The ball touched Colts player Hank Baskett and was recovered by New Orleans at its 42.

    That set the tone for the rest of the game.

    Brees and the offense took full advantage, quickly driving for their first touchdown of the game. The score came on a 15-yard screen pass from Brees to running back Pierre Thomas, who made two nifty cutbacks to his left to elude Colts defenders and dive into the end zone.

   But the Colts wasted no time in reviving their offense. After failing to pick up a first down in the second period, they drove 76 yards for a touchdown being the running of Joseph Addai and Manning’s passing to tight end Dallas Clark.

   Manning was rolling to his right when he lofted an near-perfect pass over Saints defenders to Clark for a 26-yard gain. A later 11-yard pass to Clark moved the ball to the New Orleans 4.

   Addai ran in for the score from there, using a nifty spin move to elude middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and run standing up into the end zone to give the Colts a 17-13 lead.

   Garrett Hartley’s 47-yard field goal with 2:01 left in the third quarter trimmed the Indianapolis lead to a single point, 17-16.

   The Colts drove as far as the Saints 30 early in the fourth quarterback before their drive stalled when Manning’s deep pass to Austin Collie fell incomplete, thanks to excellent deep coverage by middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

   Colts kicker Matt Stover tried a 51-yard field goal, but it was wide left, giving the ball back to the Saints at their 41.

   From there, Brees took over and led the Saints to their promised land.

   It was a night the Saints, their fans, and the city of New Orleans will never forget.

   Charles Chandler: (704) 358-5123 and @CharlesChandler on Twitter.

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Posted by Observer Sports on February 7, 2010 at 10:40 PM | Permalink

Comments

oh how quickly we forget what was only a year ago. Porter's pick-six was not the longest INT return for a TD in Super Bowl history; I believe that honor would belong to James Harrison.

Posted by: codeman | Feb 7, 2010 11:01:54 PM

go katrina

Posted by: joe cool | Feb 7, 2010 11:15:09 PM

Congrats to the Saints...better look out for the Panthers next year though!

Posted by: 34+28=GREATNESS | Feb 8, 2010 6:12:11 AM

I was half expecting Porter to be named MVP, as there has been a trend recently of giving the MVP to any defensive back that has a pick-six.

I wonder if the Saints would like to give us Brees for Peppers....

Posted by: J | Feb 8, 2010 9:29:54 AM

Wow...

you mean you can actually win a NFL game by TAKING SOME CHANCES...

who knew....

Posted by: goobersdaddy | Feb 8, 2010 3:19:27 PM

This just further strengthens the argument that the Panthers HAVE to keep Julius so he can put pressure on QBs of that magnitude.

Posted by: Al | Feb 8, 2010 4:03:13 PM

Enjoy it now Saints fans because next season Carolina is gonna run the south. They're gonna eat the Falcons, sword fight with the Buccaneers, and march all over the Saints and be back on top of the division once again...and when the super bowl!!! I'm happy for the black and gold but now it's BLACK AND BLUE'S turn. GO PANTHERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Phylicia | Feb 8, 2010 8:13:16 PM

Ok, seriously. Katrina was a disaster for the N.O. area, but when do we get over it? All you ever hear about is how the saints are giving the city "hope". If that is all the hope a city has, almost 5 years after a hurricane, then maybe there really is no hope at all. I go through N.O. about 8 or 9 times a year for work, and all you hear of is katrina katrina katrina. It's time to move on people...

Posted by: Joey | Feb 8, 2010 9:02:56 PM

THERE IS NOTHING TO LEARN JUST LOOK AT THEIR RECORD PREVIOUS YEARS

YEAR W L T PF PA
2008 8 8 0 463 393
2007 7 9 0 379 388
2006 10 6 0 413 322
2005 3 13 0 235 398
2004 8 8 0 348 405

Posted by: danny | Feb 8, 2010 11:04:57 PM

Hey Joey,

Maybe when you lose your home / business to a disaster or a family member or loved one you'll STFU & not be such an unfeeling prick.

Posted by: 64strat | Feb 8, 2010 11:09:05 PM

You hit the nail on the head Joey, NO isn't the only place in America to be devasted by nature.

Posted by: Big Kev | Feb 9, 2010 11:24:46 AM

"Maybe when you lose your home / business to a disaster or a family member or loved one you'll STFU & not be such an unfeeling prick."

How does the Saints winning the superbowl help someone who lost their home? They spent 400 million to keep the team why didn't they rebuild homes with that money? Your the prick

Posted by: Gamble20 | Feb 9, 2010 6:19:30 PM

it makes me angry because the panthers are a more talented team.if we had matt moore starting all season we would have made the playoffs and then who knows what would have happened.we match up well vs all the playoff teams ,especially the saints.i thought the saints and colts were two of the worst super bowl teams of all time.the colts def sucks andim not impressed at all with the saints def ,off line and r.bs.manning choked.hey fox, did you see how a coach that takes chances can do great things? i hate you fox!

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Posted by: NFL Draft | Feb 14, 2010 1:48:16 AM

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