Brees leads Saints to 1st Super Bowl win
Quarterback Drew Brees threw a pair of touchdown passes as the New Orleans Saints rallied from an early 10-point deficit for the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history, a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Brees hit tight end Jeremy Shockey with a two-yard slant to put the Saints up for good with 5:46 remaining in the fourth and cornerback Tracy Porter sent New Orleans fans at Sun Life Stadium in Miami into a frenzy by intercepting Peyton Manning's bid to bring Indianapolis back, returning it 74 yards for a touchdown.
The Colts had one more possession deep in New Orleans territory, but stalled inside the five-yard line. Indianapolis led 17-16 after three quarters on Joseph Addai's four-yard touchdown run, but after kicker Matt Stover missed a 51-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth, New Orleans took over.
Brees completed his last 10 attempts to finish 32-for-39 passing for 288 yards, earning Super Bowl most valuable player honours. His 32 completions tied a record for the big game.
The Saints were in the championship game for the first time. They had been in the playoffs only four times since their 1967 debut until Brees arrived as a free agent in 2006 and helped turn the team's fortunes around one year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
"Four years ago who ever thought this would be happening when 85 per cent of the city was under water from Katrina," Brees said. "Most people not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back or if the organization and the team would come back. …
"This is the culmination of that belief and that faith."
While only 23 seconds separated the time of possession for the teams at the end of the game, it was a misleading statistic.
A huge key for the Saints was Brees keeping NFL most valuable player Manning off the field for a large swath during the middle of the game.
New Orleans had the ball for nearly 12 minutes in the second quarter and then Saints coach Sean Payton kept Manning away from the ball by calling for an onside kick at the beginning of the second half. Thomas Morstead executed the successful kick, with Hank Baskett of the Colts unable to corral the first touch for Indianapolis.
After the onside kick, Devery Henderson hauled in two passes from Brees to set up a 16-yard scoring play from running back Pierre Thomas, who caught a screen pass and eluded several Colts to dive into the end zone for the first New Orleans lead of the game.
Including the extended halftime show, Manning had barely been on the field in the previous 75 minutes, but he coolly responded with a 27-yard pass to Dallas Clark between three defenders to put Indianapolis back in scoring position.
Addai ran it in from four yards, spinning and outfighting two New Orleans defenders for his first Super Bowl touchdown.
The Saints drove right back downfield, but Colts safety Melvin Bullitt made a key tackle on Shockey to force New Orleans to settle for a 47-yard Garrett Hartley field goal, his third of the day, to set up the final quarter.
Pierre Garcon caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Manning late in the first for a 10-0 Indianapolis lead as the Saints appeared jittery in the early going. The touchdown completed a 96-yard scoring drive that was propelled by 53 combined yards from Addai.
Manning led the Colts to a 38-yard Matt Stover field goal on the team's first drive. He found favourite target Clark for two passes and made a third-down conversion to Austin Collie on the nearly six-minute scoring drive.
Brees and the Saints, who received the opening kickoff, completed just one first down in two drives to start the game as Colts defenders provided good coverage on his intended targets.
But the Colts saw their progress halted in the second when Garcon dropped a catchable pass on third down to halt progress.
The Saints had to settle for two Hartley field goals to make it 10-6 at halftime. The Saints were stuffed on a fourth-down play near the Indianapolis goal-line in the second as Thomas was knocked back by Indianapolis linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session on the play with 1:55 left in the half.
But Brees by that point had led his offensive unit on a pair of time-chewing scoring drives in the stanza to get momentum back, with Hartley earlier accounting for the first Super Bowl points in New Orleans history with a 46-yard field goal. Hartley, who was a midseason replacement for ineffective veteran John Carney, added a 44-yard field goal on the last play of the half.
The skill level of the two quarterbacks, and the lack of a sustained pass rush, led to a coolly efficient game at times. At one point, Brees and Manning had combined to complete 77 per cent of their pass attempts.
Manning would end up with 33 completions in 45 attempts for 333 yards, one touchdown and the interception to Porter, which irrevocably changed a game that could have been headed to the first overtime in Super Bowl history.
"We weren't the Aints," Porter said. "We were a team of destiny, a team that can make big plays."
Indianapolis had not lost a game this season when playing their starters for all four quarters, while New Orleans rebounded from losing three straight to end the season to score 107 points in three playoff games.
The Colts were looking for their third Super Bowl win in franchise history, but are now 2-2. Indianapolis won in 2007, also in Miami, while the Baltimore Colts were victorious in 1971.
The Super Bowl was played in the Miami area for the 10th time, in clear conditions.
With files from The Associated Press