Drew Brees wasn’t perfect, but came awfully close. On the big stage, the New Orleans quarterback directed a second-half blitz against Indianapolis last Sunday in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, leading the once-hapless Saints to a 31-17 win.
For a moment, it seemed Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning was poised to tie it, but cornerback Tracy Porter picked him off, stepping in front of wide receiver Reggie Wayne (46 yards and five receptions), and then racing 74 yards to make it a 14-point lead with 3:12 remaining.
“That was just one play,’’ said first-year Indianapolis Head Coach Jim Caldwell. “We played a very good team, and they showed that all game long.”
Brees was tabbed the game’s Most Valuable Player after hitting 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“We just believed in ourselves,’’ said Brees, who tied a Super Bowl record with the 32 passes completed. “We had the whole city, and the whole state behind us, and maybe all of America.”
A two-yard pass to tight end Jeremy Shockey made it 22-17 with just less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Brees pushed the lead to 24-17 on the two-point conversion pass.
Manning completed 31 of 45 for 333 yards and one touchdown, but couldn’t rally Indianapolis, which jumped out to a 10-0 lead after Matt Stover hit a 38-yard field goal with 7:29 left in the opening quarter, and Manning finding wide receiver Pierre Garcon (five catches for 66 yards) on a 19-yard strike just before the quarter ended.
The 96-yard, 11-play drive looked like a knockout punch, but it was premature because the Saints assumed control in the second quarter, running 26 offensive plays to six for the Colts (16-3).
Down 10-6 at the intermission, New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton tried an onside kick, which worked and surprised the Colts.
Six plays later, Brees found running back Pierre Thomas (55 yards and six catches) with a 16-yard toss and 11:41 left in the third quarter, giving the Saints a 13-10 lead.
Colts’ defensive end Dwight Freeney, who tore an ankle ligament in the AFC title game against the New York Jets, and who missed the entire week of practice leading up to the game, was often double-teamed. He finished with one sack and one tackle.
New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley, who drilled the game-winning overtime field goal in the NFC title game against the Minnesota Vikings, kicked the first of three field goals when he booted a 46-yarder to make it 10-3 with 9:34 left in the second quarter.
Hartley also made a 44-yarder with no time left before the half, and was made possible when New Orleans (16-3) drove 26 yards while consuming five plays.
Last in the NFL in rushing, the Colts totaled 99 yards, and received 77 yards on 13 carries from Joseph Addai, who scored on a four-yard run with 6:15 left in the third quarter. The play gave Indianapolis a 17-13 edge, as Manning moved the team 76 yards on 10 plays.
New Orleans had 51 yards on the ground, with Pierre Thomas grinding out 30 yards on nine carries, and Reggie Bush getting 25 yards on five rushes.
Hartley’s 47-yard field goal with 2:01 showing in the third quarter trimmed the Colts’ lead to 17-16.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.