Regular season record: 169-87
Postseason record: 5-6
Think about that for a second. For the most part, the Saints did whatever they wanted on offense and their oft-criticized defense held Peyton Manning & Co. to a mere touchdown.
Like all Super Bowls, this one featured a decent amount of big plays that altered the game's momentum.
First was Pierre Garcon's second quarter drop on a third down with the Colts up 10-3. The magnitude of this play can not be understated. The ball hit Garcon's hands with no Saint within five yards of him. If he catches that ball, the Saints may be looking at a two touchdown deficit three or four plays later.
The second was the onside kick. Sean Payton has been known to take some huge risks, but this is one where he's hailed as a genius if it works and he's condemned as a moron if it fails.
Apparently, Payton was very confident in the call, but it shouldn't have worked. Hank Baskett was in a perfect position to field the kick, but then he showed why he's the fifth receiver on the roster. This, of course, led to the Saints taking their first lead, but it was only one of the Colts' huge special teams blunders.
Late in the third quarter, the Saints kicked off after having cut Indy's lead to one. The kick sailed into the end zone and Colts return man Chad Simpson inexplicably took the ball out of the end zone and was swallowed up at the eleven-yard line.
The result of that drive? Indianapolis stalled at the Saints' 33-yard line and Matt Stover (who has only attempted four kicks over 50 yards since 2004) missed a 51-yard field goal. If Simpson doesn't bring the ball out, Stover is looking at a much, much, much more makeable kick.
Lastly was the pick-six that Manning threw to Tracy Porter. Reggie Wayne was clearly not 100 percent, but a lot of the fault from that play falls on him. Anyone who has seen a few Colts games knows that little slant Wayne was running is one of Indy's favorite plays. Porter was sitting on the route and Wayne should have recognized this and cut under Porter as opposed to what he actually did.
Speaking of injuries, I have to commend Dwight Freeney before I go any further. Obviously the long halftime hurt him a lot, but he was great in the first half. He played much better than I ever thought he would.
So what exactly will Super Bowl XLIV mean in the future? Let's start with Manning.
Peyton Manning is an excellent quarterback. He makes some of the most beautiful passes (like the gorgeous 27-yarder he threw to Dallas Clark in the second quarter), but he looked a lot like pre-2007 Manning in the second half.
For instance, at the end of the third quarter, Manning completed a pass to Austin Collie with a few seconds left in the quarter. As they rushed up to the line, I was positive that Indy was going to get off another play before the start of the fourth. They got to the line and the clock ran out.
I was shocked. Manning is usually great at getting the snap off in situations like that. It was a very odd play that told me that Manning was rattled.
Manning is now 9-9 in the postseason in his career. You would've never known that he was only one game over .500 in the postseason last week with every sports media outlet ready to crown Manning as the best quarterback ever. In reality, Manning came into this postseason with seven playoff wins and tacked on two this year against two bad offenses.
His team won more games this past decade than any team in any decade and he has just one ring to show for it. Any quarterback can win one. Trent Dilfer has one. Eli Manning has one. Mark Rypien has one. If Manning ever wants to be considered in the same breath as Tom Brady, John Elway, and Joe Montana, he needs to perform better in January and pick up another ring along the way.
For the champs, this means more than most other Super Bowl victories mean. Tom Benson had one foot out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and if not for Paul Tagliabue, the Saints probably are not in New Orleans today. This team means more to their city than any of us outside of New Orleans will probably ever know.
After he got all of the jitters out, Drew Brees played near-perfect football. After the first quarter, Brees cut through the Colts' defense with ease. Sean Payton also called a pretty good game, particularly the way he and Brees noticed how Indy was covering the deep balls.
They adjusted and, as a result, kept the ball out of Manning's hands for a majority of the second quarter and about an hour in real time. Indy, without cornerback Jerraud Powers, was never able to slow down the short passes and it killed them. The only short yardage Indy was able to pick up over the last three quarters was Joseph Addai's great running. This was the best he's looked all season.
Too bad we can't say the same about Peyton Manning.