Saints - Colts: What Went Right

The Saints won Super Bowl XLIV 31-17, but the game was in doubt right down to the final few minutes. Tracy Porter's interception of Peyton Manning put any hope of a comeback in jeopardy. Ultimately the momentum swing proved too much, even for the great Peyton Manning. What else went right for the Saints? Or wrong for the Colts?

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Saints cornerback Tracy Porter prepared for his first Super Bowl by getting a new haircut pre-game that featured the Lombardi Trophy, Superdome and "SB 44" carved into the style.

A few hours later, he sealed the victory with a 74-yard interception return in the fourth quarter and the Colts at the New Orleans' 31-yard line with 3:24 remaining and trailing by seven points.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams called for a blitz, and Porter stepped in front of a slant pass intended for wide receiver Reggie Wayne.

"It was great film study," said Porter. "We knew that on third-and-short they stack, and they like the outside release for the slant. It was great film study by me, a great jump and a great play." - Saints cornerback

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was seen talking to Wayne after the play, but said, "It's kind of a play we've run a lot and Porter just made a great play."

Wayne said it was a good job of guessing by Porter, and that Manning simply asked Wayne what he thought happened on the play.

"I told him what the guy did and that was a wrap," said Wayne.

--Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney started the game at right end despite missing all of the team's practices since suffering a third-degree sprain and a torn ligament in his right ankle in the AFC Championship Game. He was very effective in the first half, showing his trademark spin moves and bull-rushing Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod right into the pocket for a sack of quarterback Drew Brees.

But the long halftime intermission gave the ankle time to stiffen up. Freeney had it re-wrapped and was seen changing socks on the sideline, but wasn't as effective in the second half as he was in and out of the game.

"I think, more or less, after the half there was more stiffness," Freeney said. "I kept on running back and forth (on the sideline), trying to get it going again. ... Obviously it wasn't 100 (percent). It was kind of hard. It loosened a little bit in the second half.



New Orleans Saints
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WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Saints certainly got off to a running start, one of the best in NFL history, in fact, on what would turn out to be the most successful season in the 43-year history of the franchise.

In winning their first 13 games, which easily eclipsed the previous franchise record of seven straight victories to start a season, the Saints served notice they would be contenders for the NFC title and possibly even Super Bowl XLIV.

They did it with a productive offense and suffocating defense, which were the reasons the Saints won their first six games by a total of 111 points -- with each of those victories coming by double-digit margins.

That the Saints did it with one of the most productive offenses in the NFL was no surprise. They had led the league in total offense in 2006, when they came up one game short of the Super Bowl, and also in 2008 and had all of their key players on that side of the ball already in place.

While Brees and his offense put up yards and points at a dizzying pace, the Saints were getting some support for a change from a new-look defense that was under the direction of Gregg Williams.

With Williams bringing pressure from every conceivable angle, and at any time, the Saints forced turnover after turnover. When they didn't capitalize on them, they set their offense up for easy scores.

In addition to having a defense that could create turnovers and make plays, especially in crucial situations, another thing the Saints benefited from was an improved running game that ranked sixth in the NFL during the regular season.

WHAT WENT WRONG: There wasn't much when you consider that they had a number of firsts throughout the season.

They earned the franchise's first No. 1 seed for the playoffs, which also allowed them to play host to the NFC Championship Game for the first time and they used that as a springboard to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in club history.

The only real problem for the Saints was a three-game losing streak to end the regular season. That was offset by the 13-game winning streak to begin the season, however, which helped the Saints earn the all-important home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.

Along the way, the Saints had some problems stopping the run, especially long runs, but the defense's ability to create turnovers helped out tremendously.

The key to the offseason will be to recover quickly and try to add another piece or two on the defensive side of the ball, and keep the offense that led the NFL in total yards for the third time in four seasons together.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just believed in ourselves and we knew that we had an entire city and maybe an entire country behind us. What can I say? I tried to imagine what this moment would be like for a long time. And it's better than expected." -- Brees, on winning Super Bowl XLIV and delivering the first world championship to New Orleans.

Indianapolis Colts
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WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Colts' young receivers, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, made huge strides during the course of the 2009 regular season. Collie wasn't slated to see a lot of playing time early in the year but was thrown into the fire when starter Anthony Gonzalez suffered a season-ending knee injury in the regular season opener. Garcon also quickly developed.

The running game also showed improvement as the season progressed. Defensive tackles Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson helped to solidify the middle of the defensive line. Safety Melvin Bullitt played very well as he started the majority of the team's games at strong safety, taking over for an injured Bob Sanders.

And rookie cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey were forced to play earlier than expected due to injuries to starters Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson. Punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee also had a strong rookie season.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Key injuries to key defensive personnel hurt the Colts throughout the regular season and the playoffs. Bob Sanders, Marlin Jackson and Tyjuan Hagler all suffered season-ending injuries. Hayden missed the early portion of the season due to a variety of injuries. Defensive end Dwight Freeney's third-degree ankle sprain heading into the Super Bowl also hurt his overall effectiveness.

The offense wasn't immune, either, as Gonzalez suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year.

While the running game did show improvement as the year progressed, it's still not up to the form the Colts showed during the team's 2006 run to Super Bowl XLI. More consistency is needed in the running game next year. Placekicker Adam Vinatieri came into the season injured after having hip surgery. He also had knee surgery in the middle of the year.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our team is certainly disappointed. There's only one happy team in the National football League at the end of the year. Obviously, that's the goal and the aim. To win it all, to win the Lombardi Trophy and we failed at that. We're proud of the way we fought all year long. They did a great job of representing our franchise, our organization. They did a tremendous job during the regular season. But you don't get any trophies for the regular season. So we're going to take our disappointment and let it fuel us a little bit and see what 2010 brings for us." -- Caldwell after his team dropped a 31-17 decision to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV.

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