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New Orleans Saints beat Indianapolis Colts 31-17 to win Super Bowl XLIV

MIAMI

Gambling is legal in Louisiana.

That must have been what Saints coach Sean Payton was thinking when he became the first to attempt an onside kick to start the second half of a Super Bowl.

Tracy Porter beat the odds by intercepting New Orleans native and Colts robo-quarterback Peyton Manning late in the fourth quarter, returning the pick 74 yards for a touchdown.

It also was what Drew Brees did four years ago by taking a chance on coming to New Orleans.

It all paid off.

A city that was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 now has nothing to do but celebrate its cool Brees.

The Saints quarterback tied a record for completions by going 32-of-39 for 288 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Saints to a 31-17 win Sunday over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

Brees was named the game's most valuable player after helping the Saints overcome a 10-0 deficit to outscore the Colts 31-7.

Porter's interception with 3:12 left set off a party for Saints fans from Sun Life Stadium to Bourbon Street that will make Mardi Gras look like a peaceful parade by winning their first title in the 43-year history of the franchise.

"We just believed in ourselves," Brees said. "We knew we had an entire city — and maybe an entire country — behind us.

"Four years ago, whoever thought this would be happening? Eighty-five percent of the city under water. Most of the city was evacuating. Nobody knew if the city would come back or if the people would come back or if the organization would come back. But we came in as free agents, and we just looked at each other and said, 'We're going to rebuild together.' This is the culmination of that."

Payton, who arrived less than six months after Katrina, deserves credit for reviving the Saints. And it was his decision to start the second half with an onside kick.

Payton said he used the extra time from the halftime show by the Who to thrill Who Dat nation. Punter Thomas Morstead dribbled a kickoff that was recovered by rookie linebacker Jonathan Casillas.

The Saints then drove 58 yards in six plays, capped by Brees' 16-yard pass to Pierre Thomas that gave them a 13-10 lead.

"At halftime, I told those guys, 'You've got to make me look good here,' " Payton said of the team's first onside kick of the season. "Our guys did a good job of selling a normal kickoff look. But it was something we'd seen and practiced all week. The key was the kicker."

Morstead said he was surprised by Payton's decision.

"I wasn't worried," he said. "I was just terrified."

The Colts responded with what would be their only scoring drive of the second half to retake the lead. Manning's blitz-beating 27-yard completion to tight end Dallas Clark set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Joseph Addai.

Garrett Hartley made his third field goal, a 47-yarder, and Brees threw a 2-yard touchdown to tight end Jeremy Shockey. Brees' two-point conversion pass to Lance Moore made it 24-17 with 5:42 left.

With the tension thick as gumbo, Manning tried to send the game into overtime. He completed five passes to move to the Saints 31. But on third and 5, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams brought pressure, and Porter stepped in front of a slant pass intended for Reggie Wayne and returned it for the final score.

"Porter made a great play on the ball," Manning said. "He made a good break on it and just made a heck of a play."

Manning became the fifth Super Bowl-winning quarterback to be defeated by the Saints this season, joining brother Eli of the Giants and the Patriots' Tom Brady (regular season), and the Cardinals' Kurt Warner and Vikings' Brett Favre (playoffs).

The Saints also became the first team to win a Super Bowl after losing to the Bucs in the same season. And the comeback from 10 points down tied a record set in the Redskins' 42-10 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

If anyone can appreciate what the Super Bowl victory means to New Orleans, it's Manning. His father, Archie, quarterbacked the Saints for 12 seasons, when they were a sad-sack team. And he and his two brothers grew up watching games in the Superdome.

"It's hard to address," Manning said. "I know how excited our team was three years ago and the city and our fans. I understand how excited the fans and the city of New Orleans must be. I'm sorry for our fans."

Brees said he believed the Saints were a team of destiny and his arrival in New Orleans preordained.

"I thought coming to New Orleans was a calling," Brees said. "Not many people in their life have an opportunity to come to a city that had nearly been destroyed. It was just a mentality of the people that became our mentality. We've been through so much, but we're going to come back stronger."

fast facts

Can't-miss

Drew Brees had the second-best completion percentage in Super Bowl history:

Player Team Pct. (Com.-Att.) Opp. Game

Phil Simms Giants 88.0 (22-of-25) Broncos XXI

Drew Brees Saints 82.1 (32-of-39) Colts XLIV

Joe Montana 49ers 75.9 (22-of-29) Broncos XXIV

Ken Anderson Bengals 73.5 (25-of-34) 49ers XVI

Troy Aikman Cowboys 73.3 (22-of-30) Bills XXVII

New Orleans Saints beat Indianapolis Colts 31-17 to win Super Bowl XLIV 02/07/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 8, 2010 12:42am]

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