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(Sunday, February 7th)
Final Score: New Orleans 31, Indianapolis 17
Miami, FL (Sports Network) - Who Dat? Those are the Super Bowl champions - the New Orleans Saints - for the first time in the history of a franchise and city that has witnessed tough times.
Drew Brees connected with Jeremy Shockey for the go-ahead two-yard touchdown pass with 5:42 left in the fourth quarter, lifting the Saints to a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
Tracy Porter then sealed the fate of the Colts, picking off four-time MVP Peyton Manning and returning the ball 74 yards for a touchdown with 3:12 left, thwarting Indianapolis' chance for a second title in four years.
A team that went through several years of seeing fans hold paper bags over their heads due to losing seasons, the Saints finally rewarded the Crescent City with a championship. It was more than a healing process, it was the feel-good story building over a period of several years since the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"New Orleans is back and this shows the whole world. It's back!," Saints owner Tom Benson exclaimed, holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy above his head.
The Saints rallied from a 10-0 deficit behind a sparkling performance from Brees, who tied a Super Bowl record with 32 completions, going 32-of-39 for 288 yards and a pair of scores. The Saints outscored the Colts, 15-0, in the last quarter. They also took advantage of a surprise onside-kick to start the second half.
"We just believed in ourselves. We knew that we had an entire city, maybe an entire country behind us," Brees said. "I'm trying to imagine what this moment would be like for a long time. It's even better than expected."
Manning finished 31-of-45 for 333 yards with a TD and the costly interception. Dallas Clark had seven receptions for 86 yards, while Joseph Addai accounted for a big portion of the Colts' offense. He had 13 rushes for 77 yards and a TD and caught seven passes for 58 yards, but Indianapolis couldn't gain a second title in four years after topping Chicago following the 2006 season, in this same stadium.
"We just didn't play well in certain times and certain phases," Manning said. "The Saints definitely deserve the win."
Instead, Brees, the MVP of the game, became a hero to the city of New Orleans and its fans who suffered through an incredible amount of pain, losing 10-plus games from 1996-1999. He tied Tom Brady's mark for completions in a Super Bowl game.
"It was all meant to be. It was all destiny," Brees said.
Garrett Hartley kicked three field goals, all better than 40 yards, for New Orleans.
Indianapolis' Matt Stover was barely wide left on a 51-yard field goal try with 10:39 left in regulation as the Colts failed to build on a 17-16 lead.
Brees then guided the Saints with precision passing, completing all seven of his throws during a nine-play, 59-yard march. He had 10 straight completions through that drive, finishing it with a quick two-yard strike to Shockey, who got in front of defensive back Jacob Lacey to make the scoring grab on a slant pattern.
Brees' two-point conversion pass to the right side for Lance Moore was initially ruled incomplete, but reversed after a challenge from the Saints. Moore reached for the ball and made a diving grab, while stretching the ball backward, across the plane of the goal line - all while his helmet was planted in the grass. Lacey then knocked the ball away with his legs as the Saints wide receiver was on the ground.
Manning moved the Colts to the New Orleans 31, but on 3rd-and-5 Porter jumped in front of wide receiver Reggie Wayne and darted the other way, passing the Colts QB on the way for the fourth-longest interception return in Super Bowl history.
"He made a good break on it and just made a heck of a play," Manning said of Porter.
Indianapolis moved from its own 14 to the New Orleans three in the final minute, but on fourth down Manning's pass fell incomplete in the end zone with 44 seconds left.
"They just came up with a great game plan that second half," said the Colts' Dwight Freeney, who started despite an ankle injury. "I can't say they necessarily surprised us. They executed their game plan in the second half better than we did."
The Saints, in the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, got the ball first, but went three-and-out.
Manning then engineered the Colts on an 11-play, 53-yard march, which Stover finished off with his 16th consecutive field goal in the postseason - a 38- yarder - at the midway point of the period.
Brees, responsible for leading the Saints to the league's top-ranked offense during the season, drove his team to midfield, but a 3rd-and-7 pass to Marques Colston fell incomplete.
Indianapolis was pinned at its four following a punt, but methodically moved down the field with Addai responsible for 53 yards rushing. He ripped off a 26-yard run on 3rd-and-1, advancing the ball to the 23. Three plays later, Manning, in shotgun formation, found Pierre Garcon, who got behind defenders on the right side of the end zone with 36 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The 96-yard march, which took 11 plays, tied the longest drive in Super Bowl history.
The Colts dominated the opening quarter, outgaining the Saints in yardage, 154-36. The Saints ran just 10 offensive plays in the period, but the Colts had just six in the second quarter. Indy was outgained 143-15 in the second quarter.
That stanza proved much different, starting with Hartley's 46-yard field goal to end an 11-play, 60-yard march with 9:34 left in the half. Hartley converted the kick after Brees was thrown to the ground on a one-handed sack by Freeney.
New Orleans then forced a three-and-out, helped when Garcon dropped a sure first-down catch with plenty of open space.
Brees led the Saints' high-powered offense down the field. He converted a pair of third downs, including a 21-yard toss to Moore, moving the ball to the 23. After Devery Henderson lost seven yards on an end-around play, Brees found Colston over the middle for 27 yards, advancing the ball to the three.
But the drive stalled. After a false start penalty, Pierre Thomas ran seven yards to the one, setting up third down. Mike Bell slipped down on a rush to the right; and then on fourth down, Thomas was stuffed on a run.
Following a punt, New Orleans got the ball back at its own 48 with 35 seconds left in the half. Brees threw 19 and six yards to Henderson. Reggie Bush ran for a yard out of bounds with five seconds left, setting up Hartley's 44-yard field goal on the final play for a 10-6 margin at the break.
The Saints used a gutsy approach to start the second half, trying on onside kick. The ball glanced off Indianapolis' Hank Baskett, and after a scrum at the bottom of the pile, New Orleans' Jonathan Casillas came away with the football.
"It was something we spent some time on last week," Saints coach Sean Payton said of the surprise kick to start the half. "We practiced it a little this week. You get a little nervous when you practice something like that the week of the Super Bowl with everyone that's at practice, but the execution was good, it was great. They made me look good."
It was the first onside kick in the Super Bowl coming before the fourth quarter, and the move paid off. Brees moved the Saints into the lead at 13-10 on a 16-yard touchdown pass to Thomas with 11:41 left in the third. Brees completed all five of his passes on the drive for 51 yards, the last one being a screen on the right side of the field. Thomas evaded defenders, stepped out of a tackle in the middle of the field before diving into the end zone.
Indianapolis went back on top, 17-13, with 6:15 left in the quarter thanks to Addai's four-yard TD run.
Brees then moved the Saints from their own 34 to the Indy 29, but the drive stalled when Shockey couldn't break loose for a first down after a four-yard catch over the middle. Hartley was called on and split the uprights from 47 yards out with 2:01 remaining.
Brady completed 32 passes in Super Bowl XXXVIII against Carolina...The combined 63 completions are a Super Bowl record...The 10-point deficit overcome tied a Super Bowl record. Washington overcame a 10-0 deficit to Denver to throttle the Broncos, 42-10, in Super Bowl XXII...It was the 13th straight year the NFC team has won the coin toss to start the game...Hartley, who booted the field goal in overtime to beat Minnesota in the NFC title game, became the first kicker to have at least three field goals made of 40-plus yards in the same Super Bowl contest...Colston had seven catches for 83 yards...Brees finished the game with 10 consecutive completions. That tied the second-longest streak of consecutive completions in one game in Super Bowl history; Joe Montana set the Super Bowl record of 13 consecutive completions in Super Bowl XXIV...Manning has 5,164 career postseason passing yards, becoming just the third player to reach 5,000 postseason passing yards, joining Brett Favre (5,855) and Joe Montana (5,772)...Clark increased his career postseason totals to 64 receptions and 847 receiving yards, breaking the previous marks for tight ends (62 receptions by Jay Novacek and Shannon Sharpe), (834 receiving yards by Keith Jackson)...Stover, who is 42, became the oldest to play in the Super Bowl.
02/08 00:31:21 ET
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