New Orleans Saints take Super Bowl XLIV over Colts, 31–17
In yesterday’s Super Bowl, two teams from different backgrounds but with many similarities faced off in a thrilling championship game. The city of New Orleans, only five years removed from the devastating Hurricane Katrina, has seen the Saints as a beacon of hope. Meanwhile, the Colts are merely looking to solidify themselves as one of the most dominant teams of the decade. The final result sent the people of New Orleans into a Mardi Gras-like celebration, as the Saints came out victorious by a score of 31–17.
Throughout the season, the Colts players and coaches have been under the microscope for every game. After starting out the season with 14 straight victories, Indianapolis’ head coach Jim Caldwell made what could be the most debated call of the season. Leading 15–10 against the New York Jets, Caldwell pulled his starters in order to keep his players healthy for the playoffs. The Jets feasted on the Colts’ reserves, and the hopes for a perfect season faded away. Despite much scrutiny, this decision did not affect the Colts’ Super Bowl run, as they defeated the Baltimore Ravens and the Jets on their way to their third-ever Super Bowl appearance.
Seeking the Lombardi Trophy for the first time ever, the New Orleans Saints followed a similar path as the Colts. They began their season with 13 straight wins and were considered the best team in the NFL for a long period of time. However, they finished the season with three consecutive losses, which led to many questions about the Saints’ toughness and desire at the end of the season. The Saints squashed these doubts with convincing wins over the defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals and the Brett Favre-led Minnesota Vikings.
With the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees looking on last night, the Saints won the coin toss and elected to receive. However, they were unable to capitalize and had to punt the ball to the potent Colts offense. With two impressive drives led by the impeccable Peyton Manning, the Colts staked themselves to an early 10–0 lead. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon, a native of Haiti, capped the longest drive in Super Bowl history with a receiving touchdown from 19 yards out.
Down 10 and reeling, the Saints needed a spark to keep this game from being a blowout. The second quarter seemed to wake them up, as they cut the lead to 10–3 and were threatening at the Colts’ 1-yard line. Looking to tie up the score, the Saints went for it on fourth down from the 1-yard line with a rush to the right by tailback Mike Bell. As quarterback Drew Brees handed the ball off, a wave of white jerseys smothered Bell for a loss, which kept the score at 10–3. The Saints, while dominating the second quarter, couldn’t take the lead and entered the locker room at halftime down 10–6.
After an exciting first half and a not-so-exciting halftime performance from The Who, the third quarter started off with a play that no one was expecting. Wily Saints coach Sean Payton decided to try and keep the ball out of Manning’s and the Colts’ hands by going for an unexpected onside kick. The kick was perfectly executed, and the Saints recovered. Soon, running back Pierre Thomas punched it into the end zone to give the Saints their first lead of the game, 13–10. A back-and-forth third quarter soon ended with the Colts ahead, 17–16.
Up by one going into the fourth quarter with the ball, the Colts seemed to be in a good position to win the game. Saints fans held their breath as the Colts advanced to the New Orleans 37-yard line. Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was faced with a decision: to punt the ball or to go for a long 54-yard field goal from 42-year-old Matt Stover.
In what was a questionable decision, Caldwell went for the field goal and was disappointed. Stover missed wide left and the Saints were given great field position. A few Brees passes later and after a circus catch by fourth-string receiver Lance Moore, the Saints scored a touchdown and converted for an extra two points, extending their lead to 24–17.
Now down seven, it was time for Manning to prove that he is the best quarterback in the league. Things were looking good as the Colts marched down to the Saints’ 40-yard line. Manning dropped back to pass, and the Saints countered with an all-out blitz. Due to the pressure, Manning had to get rid of the ball and threw to one of his short routes. Unfortunately for him, Saints cornerback Tracy Porter read his eyes and jumped the route. Porter intercepted the wayward Manning pass and raced 70 yards to the end zone as the city of New Orleans erupted in pure ecstasy.