The New Orleans Saints are not who they used to be, finally capturing their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history after 42 years of waiting.
The Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 after having to come back from being on the wrong side of a 10-0 first quarter start. The comeback tied a Super Bowl record.
Overcoming has been the theme of New Orleans football since the city was hit by Hurricane Katrina four years ago.
Drew Brees was named the Super Bowl MVP, joining some outstanding company and tying New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s Super Bowl record of 32 completions.
But it wasn’t all a breeze for New Orleans. The game started with a number of miscues, including a pass that went right threw the hands of the Saints’ number one receiver and hit him on the helmet.
Indianapolis got the ball back at their own four-yard line and then tied a Super Bowl record for the longest drive, going 96 yards for a touchdown.
On their next possession, New Orleans, with the ball at the goal line, handed off to running back Mike Bell, who slipped and fell.
New Orleans finally showed signs of life by forcing Indianapolis to quickly punt, and then squeeze in a field goal as time expired in the first half.
The field goal was the second of three for kicker Garrett Hartley, who broke a Super Bowl record by making three field goals that were 40 yards or longer.
However the biggest kicking highlight should be credited to Sean Payton, New Orleans head coach, who called for an onside kick when the second half began. It was the earliest onside kick attempt in Super Bowl history.
The gutsy call paid off immediately when New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas bounced off two Indianapolis defenders and dove into the endzone for a touchdown off of a 16-yard screen pass. The touchdown gave New Orleans its first lead of the night.
Indianapolis quickly answered back with a four-yard touchdown run by Joseph Addai. The Colts’ running backs significantly outperformed their regular season numbers by averaging 5.2 yards a carry.
However, after Indianapolis’ touchdown, it was all Saints for the rest of the game, scoring 18 unanswered points.
Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, the MVP of the regular season, received the ball at his own 30-yard line with 5:35 left in the game.
Just as the announcers began to talk about the possibility of overtime, New Orleans corner back Tracy Porter stepped in front of Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne to intercept Manning, going 74 yards for a touchdown that basically sealed the victory for the Saints.
Controversy arose when Manning won the MVP award over Brees earlier in the season, despite the fact that Brees had more touchdowns, five less interceptions and a quarterback rating nearly 10 points higher than Manning.
It seemed especially fitting for Manning to toss the game-losing interception while Brees received the Super Bowl MVP, an accolade he would never trade with Manning.
The Saints finally completed their long and difficult path of playing for something more than football–playing for a city that needed hope.
As he lifted the Lombardi trophy to the sky, owner Tom Benson said with conviction, “New Orleans is back, this shows the whole world … the city is back.”