There is a bond between the city of New Orleans and its football team that is like no other in the NFL. Both have gone through difficult, challenging times. The city lost a lot when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The New Orleans Saints have lost a lot of games since beginning NFL play 43 years ago.
Thousands of residents were displaced following Katrina. The Saints played their first home game of the 2005 season at Giants Stadium and the rest of their home schedule shuttling between Baton Rouge and San Antonio.
Many wondered if the city would make it back, and with Saints’ owner Tom Benson considering a move to San Antonio, they also wondered if they would still have a football team.
When the Saints returned to New Orleans to play in the Superdome again in 2006, they had a new quarterback in Drew Brees, and several other free agent players who were determined to help bring the city back from ruins, and to some day win a Super Bowl.
So over the past few years, the city and its residents, and the Saints players, have leaned on each other to pick up the pieces. It all culminated with the Saints’ Super Bowl victory over Indianapolis on Sunday.
“Louisiana by way of New Orleans is back!” Benson said on the awards’ platform in Miami after receiving the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The Saints 31-17 victory was their first in the Super Bowl, in their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. Just like New Orleans has had to do over the past four years, the Saints had to persevere in this game after falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter.
“What can I say, we played for so much more than just ourselves,” said Brees, the game’s MVP who went 32 of 39 for 288 yards and two touchdowns. “We played for our city, we played for the entire Gulf Coast region. We played for the entire Who Dat nation who was behind us every step of the way.”
New Orleans (16-3) got its offense into gear in the second quarter to trim the deficit to 10-6 at halftime, even after failed attempts to score at the goal line after a first-and-goal at the Colts’ 3. But it was that unconventional style of head coach Sean Payton that turned the momentum in favor of New Orleans to start the second half.
Payton ordered an onside kick, New Orleans recovered, and Brees marched the Saints downfield ending with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Thomas and a 13-10 lead.
But Peyton Manning, who was 31 of 45 for 333 yards and a TD, brought the Colts back and Joseph Addai’s four-yard run put Indianapolis back on top 17-13. A field goal, touchdown and 2-point conversion later, the Saints held a 24-17 advantage.
Manning drove the Colts to the Saints’ 31, bidding for a game-tying touchdown. But Tracy Porter stepped in front of Reggie Wayne to intercept Manning’s pass and sprint 74 yards for the decisive score and 31-17 lead with 3:12 left to play.
The Colts (16-3) ran out of time, while for the Saints, it was like giving their city a new clock.
“Four years ago, who’d ever thought this would be happening,” Brees said. “Eighty-five percent of the city was under water.
“We’ve had to fight through a lot of adversity, our city has had to fight through a lot of adversity, but in the end we did it together. Our city, our fans give us strength. We owe this to them. They’re the ones that we play for.”
Onside kick changed game: The onside kick to begin the second half swung momentum the Saints’ way. Thomas Morstead’s kick bounced off the Colts’ Hank Baskett, New Orleans recovered and took the lead. After that, the teams engaged in a brief shootout before Tracy Porter’s interception return for a touchdown sealed the contest.
“All week we had practiced that onside kick,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “We felt all week that it was 60 or 70 percent chance of recovery. We knew we were going to call it at some point and we made the decision at halftime. That really becomes like a turnover. It was a game-changer.”
Here are a few records and facts from Super Bowl XLIV:
- New Orleans is the 18th different franchise to win a Super Bowl game.
- Through the playoffs and Super Bowl, the Saints are the first team to beat three quarterbacks who previously won Super Bowls (Kurt Warner, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning).
- The Saints tied for the largest deficit overcome (10 points). They were down 10-0, but outscored the Colts 31-7 the rest of the way.
- Tracy Porter’s 74-yard INT return is the third-longest for a TD in a Super Bowl game.
- New Orleans QB Drew Brees tied a Super Bowl record with 32 completions.
- Brees set the mark for the highest completion percentage at 82.1.
- Colts QB Peyton Manning now ranks third in total passing yards in postseason play with 5,164. Montana has 5,722 and Favre has 5,855.
- Colts kicker Matt Stover is the oldest player (42 years, 11 days) to play in the Super Bowl.
- The Colts 96-yard TD drive in the first quarter tied for the longest with Chicago in 1986.
- Saints kicker Garrett Hartley is the first to make three field goals of 40-plus yards in one Super Bowl game.
- There were 63 completions in the game (New Orleans 32, Indianapolis 31), setting a record for both teams in a Super Bowl.
- Both teams set a record for fewest rushing attempts with 37 (Saints 18, Colts 19).
Did You Know
Teams that score on an interception return in the Super Bowl are now 10-0 in the Super Bowl, including six of the last 10 Super Bowl games.
Copyright © 2010 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.