Saints stay aggressive to the winning end

The Saints' aggressive defense and film study gave them their first Super Bowl in franchise history. The man who picked off Brett Favre in the NFC Championship sealed the win against Indianapolis.

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."

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.


    At long last, the Saints can call themselves World Champions.

    It took awhile, 43 years to be exact, but the Saints finally broke through with a win in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday night. And in doing so, they did what they did most of the season, by finishing a game — this time in a 31-17 victory against the Indianapolis Colts.

    After losing at least six games they could have won in 2008, they capped a magical season with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a two-point conversion to upend the Colts.

    After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, the Saints (16-3) came back to get two field goals to reduce the deficit to 10-6 at halftime, then controlled the second half both offensively and defensively to stop Peyton Manning and the Colts from winning a second Super Bowl title in four seasons.

    "We talked about it at halftime," Saints coach Sean Payton said of the early deficit. "We carried out the plan. I'm proud of this team and this coaching staff. Everybody back in New Orleans gets a piece of this trophy."

    The Saints began their offseason workouts with a motto of "Finish Strong" after so many disappointing finishes during the 2008 season. But that was all forgotten during a season in which they came up time after time with the big plays to get them over the hump.

    It was no different on Sunday night in Sun Life Stadium when the Colts took the big lead early only to watch the Saints come back until they got in striking distance going into the final quarter trailing 17-16.

    Quarterback Drew Brees, who was named the MVP of the game, completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns. His 2-yard pitch to tight end Jeremy Shockey and two-point conversion pass to Lance Moore gave his team a 24-17 lead with just more than five minutes remaining before cornerback Tracy Porter sealed the deal by returning an interception 74 yards for a touchdown and 31-17 lead with 3:12 left.

    "It was all meant to be," Brees said of the Saints' historic victory. "It was all destiny."

    While it took a long time to get their first one, the Saints are hoping there are more to come as they return the core of their offense and defense in 2010.

    Of their top players on both sides of the ball, only All-Pro free safety Darren Sharper and strong-side linebacker Scott Fujita are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.

    They could use a little more help on defense as they ranked 25th in total yards allowed and were 21st against the run. But they more than made up for that this season when they had 39 takeaways in the regular season and eight more in the playoffs.

    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.


  • RB Lynell Hamilton, who plays primarily on special teams, was inactive for Super Bowl on Sunday night because of the sprained left ankle he sustained in the NFC Championship Game.

  • CB Randall Gay apparently suffered an undisclosed injury early in Sunday's game with the Indianapolis Colts and played sparingly after that.

  • LCB Jabari Greer suffered a bruised leg in the second quarter of Sunday's game, but returned on the next series and played the rest of the contest. While he was out, however, replacement Usama Young was beaten for a touchdown by WR Pierre Garcon.

  • DT Anthony Hargrove sustained a lower leg injury in the fourth quarter against the Colts but returned a few plays later and finished the game.

  • LB Troy Evans was helped off the field with an undisclosed injury after being injured on a kickoff return by the Colts late in the contest.

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