The New Orleans Saints, who used to be so bad that their fans put paper bags over their heads and called their team the “Aints,” will play in their first Super Bowl on Feb. 7. After years of frustration, compounded by the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in 2005 that left the city and the Superdome in shambles, the party is on again at Bourbon Street.
New Orleans (15-3) defeated the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in overtime in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 24 before 71,276 fans, the largest crowd to see a Saints game at the Superdome. Garrett Hartley, who was suspended at the beginning of the season for using a banned stimulant, kicked the game-winning field goal from 40 yards to set off the celebration.
“I just knew when it came off my foot that it was going to split the pipes,” Hartley said. “Here’s the funny thing: last night, I couldn’t sleep too well so I called my dad [Bill] at 2:15 in the morning and told him I had a feeling I was going to hit the game-winner from 42 yards on the right hash. I think I was two yards off. It was fate for this team to head to Miami to head to the Super Bowl this year. I’m just honored to be a part of it.”
For Drew Brees, the Saints’ quarterback and team leader, it’s a dream come true for a team and a city in need of a revival. “It’s a pretty surreal moment,” Brees said. “Words just can’t describe the feeling. I think you can draw so many parallels between our team and our city but, in reality, we kind of leaned on each other in order to survive and in order to get to where we are now. The city is on its way to recovery and, in a lot of ways, it’s back better than ever. For us as a team, we use the strength and resilience of our fans. We’ve had to fight through plenty of adversity just like this city has.”
Did You Know?
After New Orleans plays in the Super Bowl on Sunday, the only teams left who have not played in the Super Bowl will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Detroit Lions.
Super Bowl XLIV Preview
New Orleans (15-3) vs. Indianapolis (16-2)
Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Sunday, Feb. 7 @ 3:25 p.m.
Colts won 41-10 at Indianapolis in 2007
Colts 31, Saints 27
How They got here
New Orleans defeated Arizona 45-14 and Minnesota 31-28 in overtime in the NFC playoffs. Indianapolis beat Baltimore 20-3 and the New York Jets 30-17 in the AFC playoffs.
Stats and stuff
New Orleans ranked No. 1 offensively in the NFL with 403.8 yards per game in the regular season and No. 25 on defense, allowing 357.8 yards. Indianapolis ranked No. 9 on offense with 363.1 yards per game and No. 18 defensively at 339.2. Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees passed for 37 TDs, 11 INTs during the regular season and has 6 TDs, 0 INTs in the postseason. Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 33 TDs, 16 INTs in the regular season and has 5 TDs, 1 INT in the postseason.
It’s the first Super Bowl appearance for New Orleans, which might have to deal with some nerves early in the game. Indianapolis returns for the second time in four years, after winning Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season. The key for the Saints will be to get pressure on Manning and make big plays on defense. Manning is the master at dissecting defenses and exploiting weaknesses. If the Colts’ line protects him, Manning could be in for a big game. Both offenses could provide some fireworks.
Copyright© 2010 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.