Spot On: When the Saints Marched Over the Colts

Russell S. Baxter

Spot On: When the Saints Marched Over the Colts

By Brandon Fazzolari

Special to Pro Football Guru

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Tonight at the Superdome, the New Orleans Saints will battle the Indianapolis Colts in an important interconference match-up. The Saints will look to solidify their playoff seeding against a Colts squad ravaged by adversity this season. Incredibly, it has now been 10 years since these proud franchises matched up in a Super Bowl for the ages. Let’s take a look back at Super Bowl XLIV.

South Florida hosted the big game on February 7, 2010. It was a return to the scene where the Colts won their fourth NFL title and second Super Bowl in a deluge over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. This time, it would be Peyton Manning going up against his father Archie’s old team.

New Orleans had come up from the dregs of professional football. It took them a ridiculous 34 seasons to win a single playoff game. After a hurricane battered their city in 2005, they were left virtually homeless and embarked on a nightmare of a season under Jim Haslett. However, that drama opened the door to the acquisition of head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees who led the Saints in 2006 to a surprising playoff run keyed by an emotional Monday night win over the Atlanta Falcons which featured a blocked punt by the inspirational Steve Gleason.

The Saints March In

In 2009, expectations were quite high in New Orleans. They were loaded at the wide receiver position; Marques Colston was the best of the bunch. With running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush and veteran tight end Jeremy Shockey, Drew Brees had a host of weapons at his disposal. Hhe passed for 4,388 yards and led the Saints to a 13-0 start. They took their foot off the gas as they clinched everything at the end of the regular season.

In the playoffs, Brees was his usual dynamite self in a 45-14 win over the defending-conference champion Cardinals. The win set up a wonderful matchup between the Saints and Vikings. Minnesota was led by ancient Brett Favre and all-world Adrian Peterson.

The game was as seesaw a battle as there has ever been. The Vikings were as capable of making a big play on offense as they were of coughing up the ball with a momentum-changing turnover. Minnesota outgained the Saints, 475-257, but were minus-4 in turnover differential. The Saints’ defense coordinated by Gregg Williams hit Minnesota players, especially Favre, with tremendous ferocity throughout the game.

On offense, Brees was calm under fire as he tossed three touchdown passes and no interceptions. With the score tied at 28, the Vikings found themselves in great field position with an opportunity to kick a potential game-winning in regulation. However, the veteran gunslinger made a critical mistake as he threw across his body toward the middle of the field where Saints’ cornerback Tracy Porter stole the trophy.

In overtime, the Saints drove the field on the first possession for a game-winning field goal by Garrett Hartley. The Saints were off to their first Super Bowl in franchise history!

The Colts Bring the Horsepower

Their opponents would be Jim Caldwell and the Indianapolis Colts. The ’09 Colts started the season 14-0 led by the amazing Peyton Manning. Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne both caught 100 passes and exceeded 1000 receiving yards for the season. And, on defense, Dwight Freeney was a first-team All-Pro recording 13.5 sacks in just nine starts.

Caldwell controversially sat many of his main guys over the last two games costing them the chance to go undefeated. In the playoffs, the Colts held off challenges by the Ravens and Jets to make it back to their second Super Bowl in four seasons.

Peyton, Porter and Brees

Indy controlled the first quarter converting three third downs en route to a 10-0 lead. Young Pierre Garcon was the recipient of a gorgeous Manning lob for the first touchdown of the game. The Saints responded with a good second quarter. The unsung Hartley connected on two long field goals to cut the lead to 10-6 at the half.

Payton rolled the dice with an onside kick to open the second half and it worked. The Saints made the gamble pay off with a perfect screen play to Thomas. The Colts would not go away, however. Manning led them right back on a scoring drive that included two more third down conversions. Joseph Addai scored the go-ahead touchdown. Hartley responded with another long field goal.

In the fourth quarter, the Colts drove to the Saints’ 34-yard line and decided to go for a field goal. Adam Vinatieri was out with an injury. Veteran Matt Stover missed setting up New Orleans with great field possession and they took advantage. The Saints regained the lead on a short scoring strike from Brees to Shockey. They added a two-point conversion and led 24-17 late in the fourth.

The Colts moved the ball well again. However, on this third down, Manning and Wayne seemed to be on different pages. Porter jumped the route and took the interception to the house. The Saints won Super Bowl XLIV 31-17 setting off a party on Bourbon Street like never before!

Neither the Colts nor the Saints have aspired to such lofty heights since. But, in 2009, they gave football fans this memorable gem.

Brandon Fazzolari (@spot_bills) is a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan and a Vegas sports reporter for Vegas the Network.

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