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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Saints march to Super Bowl win


    MIAMI — Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne is money in the bank for the Indianapolis Colts.

    The way things have been going with banks, maybe it shouldn’t have been such a shock that when Manning looked to his ninth-year wideout, needing five yards on third down from the Saints’ 31, down a touchdown late, cornerback Tracy Porter jumped the route and cradled Manning’s pass as if it had been thrown to him.

    Seventy-four yards later, the New Orleans Saints had a 14-point lead with 3 minutes and 12 seconds left in Super Bowl XLIV, which they ultimately won, 31-17, on Sunday night.

    Who dat, indeed. Forty three years in the NFL, one Super Bowl appearance, one win for New Orleans.

    This game was going to define Manning’s legacy, at the end of his 12th year, was going to put him up there with the very best ever, if he isn’t already there. But on a coolish, breezy South Florida evening, Manning wasn’t even quite the best quarterback on the field; that was Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees, who faced little pressure against a Colts defense that got off to a great start, then faded, much like sore-ankled defensive end Dwight Freeney, who labored mightily with his injury in the second half.

    Brees couldn’t find anything up top, but he threw underneath with deadly accuracy — Manning-type accuracy. Brees was 32-for-39 for 288 yards, two touchdowns, no picks and a 114.5 passer rating. Manning threw for more yards — 333 — but was 31-for-45 with a touchdown and that game-defining pick. His passer rating was an all-too-mortal 88.5.

    “”We just believed in ourselves,”” Brees said in a postgame television interview. “”We knew that we had an entire city and perhaps an entire country behind us. I tried to imagine this moment for a long time and it is even better.””

    Said Colts coach Jim Caldwell: “”We’re all disappointed . . . It was a tough battle out there. I was proud of the way they fought … There’s only one happy team at the end of the year in the National Football League . . . We’ll sulk a little bit and then pick our heads back up and see what 2010 has in store for us.””

    The Colts grabbed a 10-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and seemed much the better team early, on both sides of the ball. It stood to reason that Manning would be able to shrug off pressure and make plays. It was a surprise that Joseph Addai gained 58 yards on his first five carries; Indianapolis was last in the league in rushing this season. Addai’s 26-yard ramble on the Colts’ second drive was a stunner.

    Manning’s best moment before halftime was his 19-yard touchdown laser to Pierre Garcon on third-and-6.

    The Saints got their offense going and pulled within 10-3 early in the second quarter. Their 46-yard Garrett Hartley field goal came after Freeney, torn ankle ligaments and all, shoved Jermon Bushrod backward, got to Brees and yanked him down for a onehanded sack.

    The Saints seemed poised to forge a tie just before halftime, facing third-and-goal from the Colts’ one. But Saints coach Sean Payton ran what looked like the same play to the same side on third and fourth down. Third down, Mike Bell slipped as he tried to turn upfield. Fourth down, Pierre Thomas was swarmed before he could turn his shoulders. Kind of puzzling that Payton gave a quick, “”pursuit”” defense two outside runs to defend, instead of going right up the gut on at least one of those opportunities.

    The Saints held on the ensuing Colts possession, forced a punt and ended up kicking a 44-yard field goal anyway as time expired, for a 10-6 halftime deficit, but they really should have scored the TD.

    The halftime extravaganza seemed to arrive very quickly, and before the Sun Life Stadium crowd had seen much of the offensive fireworks it had been promised. The crowd had to settle for the literal kind, blasting out of the flying-saucer-looking thingy erected at midfield for The Who.

    One thing the Saints did right — after a couple of early misfires, they drove the ball and ate up the clock, keeping Manning on the sideline. Indianapolis finished the first quarter with 154 net yards; it finished the first half with 169. Manning was 10-for-16 for 97 yards at halftime, respectable but hardly the unworldy level he’d established earlier in the playoffs. Brees was 16-for-22 for 164. Neither team had any luck with long strikes, as you might have thought, with the 18th (Colts) and 25th (Saints)-ranked defenses in the house. Especially since the Saints had the top-ranked offense, the Colts the ninth-best.

    Manning was able to get the ball just once to Wayne in the first half, for five yards. Brees had much better luck finding Marques Colston, who went into halftime with five catches for 66 yards.

    The real firewoks came just after Roger, Pete and Co. headed off. Second-half kickoff, onside kick, right off ex-Eagle Hank Baskett, whose primary job for the Colts is to block on kickoff returns. Baskett was unsuccessful in his attempts to pry the recovery away from Saints safety Chris Reis, with umpire Undrey Wash diving into the heaving pile hatless to restore order.

    “”That really got them going a little bit,”” Caldwell said. “”They rallied and got a score there.””

    Six brisk plays and 58 yards later, New Orleans had a 13-10 lead. Thomas took a screen at the 20, on the right side, and kept cutting against the grain, through Colts, until he was diving into the end zone.

    Manning had gone 70 minutes without a completion, but he didn’t look rusty in leading Indianapolis 76 yards in 10 plays to retake the lead. Twice he hit tight end Dallas Clarkfor third-down completions. Addai spun away from Jonathan Vilma on the four-yard TD run.

    The Saints came right back with a drive that made Hartley the first Super Bowl kicker to hit from 40-plus three times; his 47-yarder pulled them within 17-16.

    Suddenly, if either defense could break the other QB’s serve and go a series without giving up points, it was going to be a big deal. When Vilma perfectly deflected a third-and-11 bomb to Austin Collie from the Saints’ 33, New Orleans had done just that — aided by Matt Stover’s miss of a 51-yard field goal. Stover, the oldest-ever Super participant at 42, looked it on that wide-left effort.

    Brees drilled New Orleans 59 yards in nine plays, a two-yard TD pass to Jeremy Shockey giving the Saints a 22-17 lead with 5:42 left. Lance Moore was ruled not to have caught the two-point conversion pass, but as TV did a good job of explaining, Moore caught the ball and waved it over the goal line before getting it kicked away, the waving being a “”secondary act.”” The Saints were up 24-17, and Brees had tied Tom Brady’s Super Bowl record of 32 completions.

    Brees was 7-for-7 to seven different receivers on the go-ahead drive, for 44 yards — not including the two-point throw.

    “”This is not just for the city, but the whole state. LouisianaNew Orleans is back, and it shows the whole world,”” said Saints owner Tom Benson.


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