Saints' Brees leads New Orleans to a Super victory
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- For those too young to know, this is how it was in Pittsburgh 35 years ago. The Saints cast off more than four decades of frustration and celebrated how they do it best in New Orleans, they threw one big bash Sunday night.
Born in 1967, the Saints were reborn as Super Bowl champions when they exploded like a party favor in the fourth quarter all over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to claim a 31-17 victory.
New Orleans scored two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter, the final one a 74-yard interception return of Manning for a touchdown by cornerback Tracy Porter, a native of Port Allen, La. The two touchdowns erased a one-point lead by Indianapolis and denied the great Manning his second Super Bowl win in four years.
"Words can't describe how much this means for New Orleans," Porter said as the glittering confetti rained down on the field at Sun Life Stadium. "I am a Louisiana native and this is real big."
Less than five years ago, Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans and drove residents and the Saints out of town. There was talk they might never come back.
"Eighty-five percent of the city was underwater, all of its residents evacuated across the country," said quarterback Drew Brees, named the Super Bowl MVP. "No one knew if New Orleans would come back, if the team would come back. Not only did the organization come back ... we looked at each other and said we are going to build together."
New Orleans' victory ended the one-year reign as champions by the Steelers, who won their sixth Lombardi Trophy last year. The Steelers claimed their first in January 1975 to end a 42-year drought and they did so ... in the city of New Orleans.
Manning was outdone by Brees, who completed a record-tying 32 passes in 39 attempts for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Manning was 31 of 45 for 333, one touchdown and that one very big interception.
Indianapolis led, 10-0, after one quarter and 17-16 in the fourth quarter but a strange decision by rookie coach Jim Caldwell to try a 51-yard field goal blew up on him.
Matt Stover's kick was short and wide left by the 42-year-old, whose longest of the season was 43.
The miss gave New Orleans the ball at the Saints' 41 with 10:39 left, trailing by one point, and they drove for the go-ahead touchdown, a 3-yard pass from Brees to Jeremy Shockey. They scored on a 2-point conversion that was initially ruled incomplete but overturned on a replay challenge and the Saints led, 24-17, with 5:42 to go.
When Porter picked off Manning and ran 74 yards for a touchdown with 3:12 left, the Saints were marching toward their first Super Bowl victory in their 43 years of existence.
"We did it for our fans, our city," Shockey said.
Somewhere in a CBS broadcast booth, Bill Cowher had to be smiling when the Saints pulled off a successful onside kick to start the second half. It set up their first touchdown of the game, a 16-yard pass from Brees to Pierre Thomas, and gave New Orleans a 13-10 lead.
"We knew we were going to call it at some point," Saints coach Sean Payton said. He informed his team at halftime they would open the second half with it.
Cowher gave the go-ahead for such an onside kick with the Steelers early in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXX that was successful and led to a touchdown that closed the Dallas Cowboys lead to 20-17.
The Colts responded to New Orleans' trickery with a touchdown drive, and the two offenses kicked into action after a slow first half. Joseph Addai broke two tackles on a 4-yard run up the middle for the Indianapolis score that put them ahead, 17-13. Garrett Hartley came back with his third field goal for the Saints, from 47 yards, to make it a one-point game late in the third quarter.
The expected wanton scoring from the two high octane offenses never occurred in the first half, which Indianapolis led, 10-6. Steelers linebacker James Harrison scored as many touchdowns in the first half of last year's game as the two teams combined Sunday.
The Colts ran out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead before the Saints scored on two second-quarter field goals.
Stover kicked a 38-yard field goal to become the oldest player to score in a Super Bowl, capping the Colts' first drive after the Saints won the coin toss and failed to get a first down to open the game.
"Having to settle for a field goal there was disappointing," Manning said.
Indianapolis scored a touchdown on its second drive that tied a Super Bowl record when it covered 96 yards. Manning hit Pierre Garcon, a Mt. Union College rookie sensation, in the back of the end zone in stride for a 19-yard touchdown and it appeared the Colts were on their way to an easy victory.
Not only was Manning on target, but Addai ran over the Saints as if they were paper bags. Addai had carries of 16 yards, 11 yards and 26 yards during that long touchdown drive and posted 55 yards on just six carries before The Who took the halftime stage.
The Saints avoided that runaway by stringing together three good enough drives in the second quarter. The first ended in Garrett Hartley's 46-yard field goal, the second was stopped at the one and the third ended in Hartley's 44-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
One half later, the franchise once derided as the Aints had claimed its first Lombardi Trophy. The party had just begun.
"You saw Bourbon Street right after the game," New Orleans safety Rom Harper said of the mass celebration on that famous stretch of the French Quarter. "This is the best city in the world, especially after all this city has been through. We put this city on our back four years ago and now it's worth it all."
First Published February 8, 2010 12:00 am