Super Bowl XLIV was an exciting game, and an exciting finish to the NFL season. This game was a game of two different purposes; the Colts were playing for their city, their state and their conference, but the Saints were playing for their city, their state, their conference, and a region. When I found out who was going, my sister-in-law asked me who I had. My response?
“I got the Saints winning 34-31. The Colts are methodical, but the Saints are frenetic. Frenetic can come out on top of methodical due to unpredictability. So, the Frenetic Saints will beat the Methodical Colts.” Truth be told, I’ve always admired Drew Brees because he actually wanted to come to this no-account team and try to build them up.
Thankfully, I was proven right in that, but it didn’t start out that way.
When the game started, it was easy to see who was the top dog and who was the underdog. The Saints sputtered in their opening drive, but the robotic Peyton Manning didn’t; his precision passes and the emergence of Joseph Addai running the ball like he was trying to get a Kardashian led the Colts downfield for a Matt Stover field goal. This gave the Colts a 3-0 lead to start things off. At this point, I would like to say that Matt Stover is the oldest player to play in a Super Bowl. How old? I think John McCain was his pee-wee football coach. But, I digress. The Saints got the ball back again, did absolutely nothing with it, and punted the ball away to the Colts. Mr. Roboto then led the Colts down the field again, this time culminating in a 19 yard Pierre Garcon (also known as Peter Waiter, thanks to NFL Network’s Rich Eisen) TD reception. This reception gave the Colts a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Saints decided to start marching in, moving the ball downfield, but having to settle for field goals by Garrett Hartley. On that note, I must pause. They settled for those field goals for two reasons. One, Dwight Freeney – who was supposed to be questionable for the game – used his Mortal Kombat powers to sack Drew Brees on third and three. Garret Hartley came out and hit a 46 yard field goal to put the Saints on the board, but still trailing the Colts 10-3.
The second one requires a bit more information.
After forcing a Colts punt, the Saints drove right down the field and were on the precipice of scoring a TD when they got stuffed at the one yard line after going for it on 4th and Goal with a run. Personally, I was against them trying to run the ball, but I guess that’s why I’m not a coach. The Saints defense held the Colts to a three-and-out, they got the ball back, and Drew Brees marched them downfield for a field goal to make the score 10-6 at the half. Now, at this point, I’m pretty impressed. The Saints were hanging with the Colts, and they were making a game of it. It made me wonder what the second half would be like.
Needless to say, it started off with a bang.
Sean Payton came out at the beginning of the second half and called for an onside kick, catching the Colts off-guard. This led to the Saints going downfield with ease, culminating in a screen pass to Pierre Thomas that ended in a 16 yard touchdown pass. This gave the Saints their first lead in their first Super Bowl at 13-10. That lead lasted about 5:26, because Peyton Manning took the Colts down to the New Orleans 4 yard line, and Joseph Addai did the rest. Addai’s score gave the Colts the lead again, 17-13. Not to be outdone, the Saints went downfield again, but their drive stalled, and they had to settle for a record-setting 47 yard field goal by Hartley, cutting the Colts lead down to one.
That would be the last time the Colts had the lead.
The third quarter ended and the fourth quarter began with the Colts in possession of the ball, but their own drive stalled after an incomplete pass from Manning to Austin Collie. This culminated in a 51 yard field goal attempt that went JUST a bit outside. This led to Drew Brees leading the Saints to their second lead of the game, courtesy of a 2 yard pass to Jeremy Shockey, making the score 22-17. The Saints then went for two to increase their lead to seven, and it initially looked like Saints wideout Lance Moore didn’t reel it in, but after further review, the call was reversed. The Saints had a 24-17 lead going into the game’s final six minutes and Peyton Manning ready for the Colts.
When the Colts got the ball back, it looked like Peyton was going to lead them to another score, but Tracy Porter had other ideas. Porter stepped in front of a Manning pass intended for Reggie Wayne and took the ball 74 yards for what would be the clinching score.
There’s a video on YouTube where someone recorded the reaction at a bar in downtown New Orleans; it’s worth the watch. The Colts got the ball back and went downfield, but they turned the ball over on downs at the New Orleans five yard line thanks to an incomplete pass from Manning to Wayne. One kneeldown later, the Saints accomplished what no one but the citizens of the Gulf Coast region thought they could do; the Saints are World Champions.
Several records were set or tied in this game. New Orleans made the first successful onside kick outside of the fourth quarter. Drew Brees completed 32 passes, which tied with Tom Brady for most in a game. Brees also had the second highest completion rating in a Super Bowl, behind Phil Simms. Matt Stover was the oldest player to start and score in a Super Bowl. Garrett Hartley was the first player ever to kick three 40+ yard field goals.
This game was good on three fronts. This game was good for the city of New Orleans, it was good for the state of Louisiana, and it was good for the entire Gulf Coast region. This is a region that is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, but the good vibes will carry on for a very long time.
Who dat? The Saints, dat’s who!