-Eric H. Bodnar
Super Bowl XLIV (44) was one for the ages. It was much more than a normal Super Bowl. The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts were two of the best offenses in the NFL during the 2009 season. Their Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Peyton Manning finished first and second in almost every statistical category. .It was the Saints first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history However Super Bowl 44 was much more than a championship game. The Saints were playing for much more than the Lombardi Trophy. They were playing for the whole city of New Orleans. Saints quarterback Drew Brees stated “We played for much more than ourselves.”
The game started off slow as “The Sheriff” Peyton Manning was doing his usual routine of tearing up defenses. The Colts took the early lead in the first quarter with a 38 yard field goal by Matt Stover. Stover’s kick put the colts up 3-0. It looked like a defensive game midway through the first as the Colts defense with the presence of veteran and pro bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney playing through a high ankle sprain. Peyton throw his first touchdown pass of the game to Pierre Garcon. The 19 yard Td pass put the Colts up 10-0 as the first quarter came to a close.
The Saints finally picked up their defensive play causing the Colts to go “3 and out” for all of the second quarter and keeping them off the score board. The Saint despite being down 10-0 fought back with 2 field goals by their rookie kicker Garrett Heartley who nailed a 46 and 44 yard field goals to make the score 10-6 heading into half-time.
After halftime when the Saints lined up to kick the ball of to the Indianapolis Colts. Coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints made one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl History. Coach Payton called for an onside kick. “We were really excited when he made the call,” said linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who was on the field when teammate Chris Reis recovered the ball. “That changed everything.” The Saints recovered the onside kick and drove down the field and scored on a 16 yard touchdown pass to Pierre Thomas. This gave the Saints a 13-10 lead at the beginning of the third quarter. It didn’t take long for the Colts to answer. On the ensuing drive the Colts regained the lead on a Joseph Addai 4 yard touchdown run giving the Colts the 17-13 advantage. However on their next drive the Saints got more help out of their rookie kicker who put another 47 yard field goal through the upright to bring the game close again. Heading into the fourth quarter the Colts were leading the Saints 17-16.
Everyone knew that we were in for a treat; the stage was set, for one great finish. The fourth quarter started off as a tough defensive battle with both teams going three and out. However the Saints finally broke through with a huge momentum building drive that was capped off by a two yard touchdown pass by Drew Brees to tight end Jeremy Shockey. The Saints then went for two and Lance Moore mad a miraculous catch that was at first ruled incomplete. However, after challenging the play the call was overturned and the two point conversion was good. This gave the Saints a 24-17 lead with 5:42 left in the game. The thought crossed every ones mind that the Saints left way too much time on the clock for the infamous Peyton Manning. Peyton was in his grove moving down the field moving the ball affectively 7 plays for 40 yards. However Peyton would then do the unthinkable. On a play that the Colts have run and successful ran effectively throughout their season the simple slant in by Reggie Wayne turned into a historic interception. Corner back Tracey Porter intercepted the pass. Two weeks prior Porter intercepted a pass from Brett Favre which gave the Saints a chance to play in Super Bowl 44. He intercepted Peyton Manning and ran it all the way back for a 74 yard interception return for a touchdown. A play that will be remembered by Saints fans forever. After the game an upset Peyton Manning said “Made a great play. Porter made a heck of a play." The Saints won Super Bowl 44 31-17 holding Peyton out of the end zone with a goal line stand with 44 seconds left on the clock.
Drew Brees was named Super Bowl 44 MVP for completing 32-39 passes for 288 yards with two touchdowns. His 32 completions tied for 1st in Super Bowl history with Tom Brady. Another interesting stat is that Drew Brees beat 5 Super Bowl Champion quarterbacks on his journey to win his first. In the regular season he beat Eli Manning, and Tom Brady. Every single playoff round he had to beat one as well. In the Divisional round he beat Kurt Warner, in the NFC Championship game he beat Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings and finally in Super Bowl 44 he beat Peyton Manning.
After the Game an emotional captain Brees stated "Just to think of the road we've all traveled, the adversity we've all faced. It's unbelievable. I mean, are you kidding me? Four years ago, whoever thought this would be happening? Eighty-five percent of the city was under water. Most people left not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back, or if the organization would ever come back. We just all looked at one another and said, 'We're going to rebuild together. We are going to lean on each other.' That's what we've done the last four years and this is the culmination in all that belief."