Just four years after Hurricane Katrina decimated the city of New Orleans, the Saints are the champions of the National Football League. The New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17, Sunday night in Super Bowl XLIV.
The Saints made the most of their first Super Bowl appearance in the team's 43-year history, overcoming an early 10-point deficit to upset the favored Colts at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
Diehard Saints fan Virginia Simoneau exclaimed, "Lifelong dream! It's absolutely wonderful. It's been my whole life, 43 years, rooting for the Saints. And to be here is totally awesome."
The game featured two of the NFL's top offenses, but it was big plays from the Saints special teams and defense that turned the game around. Trailing 10-6, the Saints surprised the Colts by starting the second half with an on-side kick. New Orleans recovered the ball and drove for a touchdown.
New Orleans coach Sean Payton said, "You know, our guys did a good job of showing a normal kick-off coverage look. It was something that we had seen and practiced all week. The key was the kicker. Thomas [Morestead] hit it good, our guys recovered and we were able to take advantage of it and get seven points."
The Colts retook the lead 17-16 on a touchdown from running back Joseph Addai, before the Saints went ahead for good on a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey. Tracy Porter closed out the scoring by intercepting a Manning pass and returning it for a 74-yard touchdown.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who has dedicated himself to helping both the Saints and city of New Orleans recover from 2005's Hurricane Katrina, was named the game's most valuable player.
Brees, who completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, said, "You know, four years ago who ever thought this was going to happen. Eighty-five percent of the city was underwater. Most people not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back. And we just all looked at one another and said, 'We're going to rebuild together; we're going to lean on each other.' And that's what we've done here the last four years and this is the culmination of all that belief and that faith."
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said the Saints "played well in all phases. Made some critical plays on special teams. Defense made stops when they had to and Drew did a good job getting his team in the end zone. They deserved to win today."
It was the first time in 16 years the NFL's top two teams squared off for the league championship. And so the Saints ended their storybook season by turning their first Super Bowl appearance into their first Super Bowl triumph.