Heading into South Florida and Super Bowl XLIV, many folks would have guessed that one of the quarterbacks would have melted down the stretch and not come through when it counted. That’s part of the game, right? But how many of them would have said that Peyton Manning – the 2009 NFL MVP – would end up being the guilty party?
We certainly are right in that mix, having predicted that the Indianapolis Colts would not only win their second championship in four years, but do so easily. Boy, were we wrong. Drew Brees (32 for 39, 288 yards, two touchdowns) led the New Orleans Saints to their first title and was named the game MVP in the 31-17 victory. When his team needed a strong drive, he delivered. Neither Brees nor Saints head coach Sean Payton panicked when they trailed 10-0 in the first quarter and they stayed with an agressive game plan.
They went for it on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line in the second quarter (one in which they dominated) and came up short, but that didn’t stop them from going for a little trickery and recovering an onside kick to start the third quarter. The ensuing drive led to a touchdown and put New Orleans ahead, 13-10.
“We talked about it at halftime and it’s really a credit to every one of these players here,” said Payton. “There’s not enough room on this stage for all of them, but they carried out this play and I’m just proud. I’m proud of this team.”
The Colts answered with a 76-yard drive that culminated in a 4-yard burst into the end zone by running back Joseph Addai. No one could have surmised at the time that the 17-13 lead they now held would have been their last of the night.
Garrett Hartley hit a 47-yard field goal to cut the deficit to one and then in the fourth quarter, Brees went 7-for-7 on the drive of the game. He hit tight end Jeremy Shockey for a 2-yard scoring pass and then made it 24-17 by completing another pass on the two-point conversion.
Manning (31 for 45, 333 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) took over with 5:42 remaining in the contest and was taking the underneath routes that the Saints defense was giving him. When he tried to go downfield, he was picked off by Tracy Porter, who brought it back 74 yards and the exclamation point.
When the scoreboard showed a final score of 31-17, Bourbon Street exploded like 10 combined Mardi Gras parades. An unlikely turnover by arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the game sealed the deal, and pinpoint accuracy by his adversary led to that.