MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Feb. 7, 2010, 8:45 p.m. central standard time – a date and time that will now never be forgotten in New Orleans.
It’s when the Saints came marching in.
Yet, it was minutes earlier when Tracy Porter intercepted Peyton Manning, darting 75 yards down the field while he pointed at the cameras that the Saints all but secured their first Super Bowl.
He might as well have been raising his finger straight up in the air because finally, 43 years after their first game, the Saints had won the Super Bowl.
New Orleans beat Indianapolis 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV, tying the largest deficit overcome in the NFL’s finale to earn the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
Let the week-long party begin.
“They better get some extra security in New Orleans, I’ll tell you that,” Saints nose guard Sedrick Ellis said. “That place is going to be rocking.”
Porter’s interception sealed the win moments after Drew Brees hit tight end Jeremy Shockey for a 2-yard lead-taking touchdown that put the Saints up 22-17. Lance Moore’s 2-point conversion was initially ruled incomplete, but a review gave him the catch and the points and a touchdown lead.
Brees, in his first ever Super Bowl, shone brightly, earning the MVP award by finishing the game 32 of 39 for 288 yards and two touchdowns. He also had no interceptions and ended with a 114.5 quarterback rating to earn the game’s MVP honors.
“Is it me?” Brees said when told he was the game’s MVP. “It’s such a tremendous honor, but to be a Super Bowl champion is enough for me.”
“He’s the MVP tonight for a reason and he’s one of the most valuable players in the league,” Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said.
New Orleans native son Peyton Manning, meanwhile, won’t likely forget Porter’s interception anytime soon. Manning was driving the Colts to a game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter when he threw the interception.
The Saints gave up yards to Manning – 333 – but he was only 31 of 45 with one touchdown and the pick-six. He finished with a rating of 88.5.
“He made a great play,” Manning said. “He made a great play. That’s all I can say about it. Porter made a heck of a play.”
Just like the NFC championship game, the Saints were outgained by a healthy total, had fewer first downs and were poor on third down, going 3 of 9 while allowing the Colts to go 6 of 13.
But like that game, Porter came through when he absolutely needed to. Two weeks ago, he picked off Brett Favre. This time it was Manning.
And now the city can celebrate its first-ever championship, four and a half years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.
“They did a good job of coming into this game and getting the W, giving the city something to smile and be happy about,” Colts receiver and New Orleans native Reggie Wayne said. “I’m pretty sure it’s going nuts over there. I take my hat off to them. They did a good job.”
The Colts stopped the Saints on their initial three plays of the game, New Orleans’ first-ever Super Bowl plays. New Orleans then allowed the Colts to march on a 53-yard drive capped by a Matt Stove 38-yard field goal to put the Saints behind 3-0.
Again Indianapolis stopped the Saints’ offense, but they were aided by a dropped pass by Marques Colston when he was wide open. Instead of a first down, New Orleans was forced to punt.
And though the Saints downed the ball at the Indianapolis 4, Manning wasn’t going to be denied. He led the Colts on a Super Bowl record-tying 96-yard drive, capped by a 19-yard pass to Pierre Garcon for a 10-0 lead.
The Saints finally got on the board when Garrett Hartley was pure on a 46-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 10-3. But the Saints could have had more if not for Dwight Freeney, who rushed right passed Jermon Bushrod and sacked Drew Brees.
On the Saints’ ensuing series, the made it to the Colts’ 1, but twice were stopped on runs to the left end. However, New Orleans’ defense gave the ball right back to the offense with 35 seconds to go in the half when it stopped Indianapolis’ Mike Hart on third-and-one.
Brees then drove the Saints to the Colts’ 26, giving Hartley a chance for his second field goal of the half to make it 10-6 at the half.
Payton has said all season he has had the pulse of his team and on the second half kickoff, he showed he meant it. He called for an onside kick that Chris Reis recovered and six plays later, Pierre Thomas gave the Saints their first lead of the game with a 16-yard touchdown catch from Brees. New Orleans took a 13-10 lead with 11:41 to go in the third quarter.
The team knew heading out of the locker room that the call was coming.
“After we went through adjustments and changes we were making, before we left out, Coach Payton said we’re going to run an ambush here so the offense needed to stay ready,” center Jonathan Goodwin said.
Added cornerback Jabari Greer, “It was a great call by our coach. We were able to give momentum back to our team. It was a great way to open the second half.”
Back came Indianapolis, however, with Manning finding tight end Dallas Clark a viable target. First he hit Clark for seven yards, then 27 on third-and-four on a roll out. On third-and-five from the New Orleans 15, Manning once more hit Clark, this time for an 11-yard gain and one play later, running back Joseph Addai spun into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown run.
As quickly as New Orleans took the lead, the Colts grabbed it right back at 17-13.
Hartley’s third field goal of the day, this one from 47 yards, cut into the Colts’ lead to 17-16.
All that did was set up the thrilling finish.
New Orleans became the first team in NFL history to win three games in one season in which it trailed by seven-or-more points.
“There’s a lot of grit, a lot of determination in this team,” Payton said. “We fought so hard and this is what makes us uniquely different. We’ve been down at other times this year and we got a lot of good plays from our quarterback and defense. But we came up with some key stops in the second half and those proved pivotal.”
And Payton knows just how much this means to the Gulf Coast.
“I just wish we could split it up into a lot of little pieces and give it to everybody,” Payton said. “They are part of it and like I said, I’m happy to be part of it as well.”