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Saints win Super Bowl, 31-17 over Colts

MIAMI, Fla. (AP) - The ultimate underdogs, they ain't. Not
anymore. The Saints are Super Bowl champions now.
Who Dat? Try Drew Brees, Sean Payton and a team that has
reversed its embarrassing past, carrying an entire city to the top
with it.
Put away those paper bags forever.
Brees and the Saints rallied to upset Peyton Manning and the
Indianapolis Colts 31-17 Sunday night in one of pro football's most
thrilling title games.
"We just believed in ourselves and we knew that we had an
entire city and maybe an entire country behind us," said Brees,
the game's MVP. "What can I say? I tried to imagine what this
moment would be like for a long time, and it's better than
expected."
But not something many expected from these descendants of the
hapless Aints, who were 5-point underdogs.
"Four years ago who ever thought this would be happening when
85 percent of the city was under water from (Hurricane) 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."
Brees tied a Super Bowl record with 32 completions, the last a
2-yard slant to Jeremy Shockey for the winning points with 5:42
remaining. He was 32 for 39 for 288 yards.
A surprise onside kick sparked the Saints' second-half comeback.
Their 25th-ranked defense made several key stops, and Tracy
Porter's 74-yard interception return on a pass from Manning
clinched it.
Manning tried to give chase, but was blocked by a New Orleans
defender and fell awkwardly as the cornerback raced by. The
four-time NFL MVP forlornly walked to the sideline as the Big Easy
celebrations began.
"It's time for the Saints to celebrate," he said. "It's their
field and it's their championship."
An NFL also-ran for much of their 43 years, the Saints' football
renaissance, led by Brees and Payton, climaxed with Shockey's
touchdown and Lance Moore's 2-point conversion catch, originally
ruled incomplete but overturned on Payton's challenge.
Porter's pick, just as dramatic as his interception of Brett
Favre's pass to force overtime in the NFC title game, was the
game's only turnover. It's one Manning will forever regret.
The Saints (16-3) won three postseason games this winter after
winning only two in the previous 42 years. They beat Arizona,
Minnesota and Indianapolis (16-3) - all division winners - for
their first title, scoring 107 points and allowing only 59.
"We weren't the Aints," Porter said. "We were a team of
destiny, a team that can make big plays."
The championship came 4½ years after Katrina ravaged New
Orleans, making the Saints nomads for the 2005 season. There even
was some doubt they would return, but the NFL refused to abandon
the city. The Superdome was repaired and the Saints won the NFC
South in '06, their first season with Brees and Payton.
That was the season Manning won his only Super Bowl. He got the
Colts off a quick start and had them in front for much of this one,
but New Orleans' league-leading offense, which scored 510 points
this season, outscored Indy 31-7 after falling behind 10-0. That
matched the biggest comeback in a Super Bowl.
Payton held the Vince Lombardi Trophy high over his head and ran
into the end zone toward several hundred fans chanting the Saints'
rally cry: "Who dat, who dat, who dat say gonna beat dem Saints?"
Nobody can say it now.
"Everybody back in New Orleans gets a piece of this trophy,"
he said.
"I think I could kiss him," owner Tom Benson said.
Before many of the 74,059 fans got settled following the Who's
halftime show, the Saints worked a little football voodoo. Garrett
Hartley's onside kick was touched by the Colts' Hank Baskett, then
recovered by Chris Reis at the New Orleans 42.
"I just told our guys you've got to make me look good on
this," Payton said. "That really becomes like a turnover."
Looking like the NFL's most potent offense, the Saints seized
the opportunity to take their first lead. It came on Pierre Thomas'
brilliant 16-yard run with a screen pass, capped by a dive into the
end zone.
Manning simply shrugged, found Dallas Clark for 45 yards on a
76-yard drive, and Joseph Addai used a spin move a figure skater
would envy to score from the 4.
But that was it for Indy.
"I certainly know how it was three years ago when we won,"
Manning said. "I know the people of New Orleans and the Saints
have that same feeling right now."
Hartley, the hero of the NFC title game with his 40-yard field
goal in OT, made a 47-yarder later in the third period. After Matt
Stover was wide left on a 51-yarder early in the final quarter,
Brees led the biggest drive in Saints history.
"We really felt as underdogs we had the better team," Payton
said. "To be in that position where maybe a lot of people were
picking against us, we liked the spot we were in."
Manning looked sharp on the Colts' first two series, taking them
53 yards to a 38-yard field goal by Stover, at 42 the oldest player
in Super Bowl history.
Then Manning led a 96-yard, 11-play drive that appeared almost
routine, even though it tied the longest march in a Super Bowl.
Addai rushed for 53 yards on the series, and Manning found Pierre
Garcon behind backup cornerback Osama Young for the 19-yard score
on third down.
New Orleans couldn't match that, but did get a 46-yard field
goal by Hartley to make it 10-3. Brees was sacked on third down by
All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney, who sure looked frisky
despite ligament damage in his right ankle that made his
availability uncertain for two weeks.
Then Indy's defense, ranked 18th during the season but staunch
in the playoffs, really showed some power. After the Saints marched
71 yards, including 40 yards on two receptions by Marques Colston,
New Orleans had third-and-goal at the 1. Mike Bell slipped trying
to run right behind All-Pro guard Jahri Evans, and Thomas was
stacked up at the line by Gary Brackett and Clint Sessions on
fourth down.
But the Colts went against type and ran three times, leaving 35
seconds for the league's most prolific offense to get in position
for Hartley's 44-yard field goal and a more manageable 10-6
halftime deficit.
Shootout? More like a slowdown. Indy had two three-and-outs and
New Orleans had one.
But the points came quickly after halftime - mostly for the
Saints.
"Look around the stadium," linebacker Scott Fujita said. "It
was like 6- or 7-to-1 (Saints fans). The black and gold just poured
into Miami.
"The whole world was behind us. This was bigger than just a
game for the Saints. We are the world's team."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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