'We will walk together as champions,' Super Bowl MVP Brees says of Saints' win over Colts

Paul Jannace
Drew Brees is interviewed after the Saints win the Super Bowl as confetti comes down.

They ain’t the Aints no more.

The New Orleans Saints erased 43 years of futility with a super-efficient quarterback and a gutsy call by their head coach.

“I don’t know if it sunk in yet,” said Saints quarterback and Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees.

Completing a Super Bowl-record 32 passes on 39 attempts for 288 yards and two touchdowns, Brees guided the Saints to their first Super Bowl championship Sunday night by rallying for a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

“We will walk together forever as Super Bowl champions … world champions for the city of New Orleans,” Brees said.

The championship comes nearly four-and-a-half years after Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped New Orleans off the map.

Their home stadium used as shelter for thousands of displaced residents and a year playing games in San Antonio, the future of the Saints was in serious jeopardy.

Now, there’s a very simple answer to the question, “Who Dat?”

“Dat” is the Saints – Super Bowl champions.

“It’s part of a plan that none of us could have seen three or four years ago,” said Saints running back Reggie Bush. “It’s a blessing to be a part of a city that needed this.”

New Orleans (16-3) tied a Super Bowl record by rallying from 10 points down after the first quarter.

“We’ve been down at other times this year, but we’ve got a lot of poise,” said New Orleans head coach Sean Payton. “We came up with a lot of big stops in the second half, and that was pivotal.”

Another turning point came at the start of the third quarter when Payton gambled with an onside kick.

After being dominated in the first quarter, the Saints controlled the second quarter but managed only six points. They trailed 10-6 at halftime and needed a spark.

Rookie punter Thomas Morstead kicked it just right and safety Chris Reis recovered near midfield.

“I just told those guys, ‘You’ve got to make me look right here,’” Payton said. “That really becomes like a turnover.”

That got the Saints rolling, and they scored 25 second-half points and got a couple of big defensive plays late.

“They made the critical plays when they had to, and we didn’t,” said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

Pierre Thomas caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Brees after the onside kick, but the Saints’ lead lasted barely five minutes.

Manning connected with tight end Dallas Clark for 27 and 11 yards on consecutive third downs to set up Joseph Addai’s four-yard touchdown and Indianapolis (16-3) led 17-13.

Garrett Hartley, who kicked 46- and 44-yard field goals in the second quarter for the Saints, added a 47-yarder late in the third to cut the Colts’ lead to a point.

“We really felt, as underdogs, we had the better team,” Payton said. “We liked the spot were in, and I thought they handled it well.”

Manning marched the Colts down the field again, converting a 4th-and-2 with a 14-yard pass to Reggie Wayne, but the drive stalled soon after, and Matt Stover missed a 51-yard field goal.

“We’re going to take our disappointment and let it fuel us a little bit and see what 2010 bring us,” said Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell. “We had a great regular season, but you don’t get any trophies for a great regular season.”

Tight end Jeremy Shockey caught a two-yard touchdown to give New Orleans a 22-17 lead with 5:42 to go. Lance Moore caught the two-point try, but referees initially ruled it no good before a successful review by Payton and made it 24-17.

The Colts won seven games in the regular season that they trailed in the fourth quarter, but not this one.

“We were doing a good job getting pressure at first, but they adjusted,” said Colts safety Melvin Bullitt. “We always talk about the little things. We just didn’t capitalize on defense, and we couldn’t stop them in the second half.”

Tracy Porter, who helped force overtime in the NFC Championship game with an interception of Brett Favre, all but sealed the victory for the Saints in the Super Bowl with a 76-yard interception return to make it 31-17.

“In film study, I was seeing it over and over,” Porter said. “On third down, that was a big route for them. I made the break on it, and then there was the end zone.”

The Colts drove deep into Saints’ territory, but a 4th-and-goal pass from the 5 was incomplete in the end zone, and Mardi Gras started a week early.

“I’m sure they’re celebrating on Bourbon Street,” Payton said while clutching the Lombardi Trophy.

Manning, who finished 31-for-45 for 333 yards and combined with Brees to set a Super Bowl record for completions by both teams (63), put the Colts up 10-0 in the final minute of the first quarter with a 19-yard pass to Pierre Garcon in the back of the end zone.

The biggest topic all week was Dwight Freeney’s ankle, injured late in the AFC Championship win over the New York Jets, but the Colts’ sack master suited up and made his presence felt. Freeney sacked Brees on a 3rd-and-4 early in the second to force the Saints to kick a field goal that made it 10-3.

“It diminished a little bit in the second half,” Freeney said. “The problem is, once it gets stiff, it’s tough to bring it back.”

Addai carried 13 times for 77 yards, but 53 of those came on that record-tying 96-yard drive to put the Colts up by 10. The Colts’ running back also caught seven passes for 58 yards.

After eight first downs in the first quarter, the Colts had none in the second.

“We were able to move the ball, we just couldn’t put points on the board,” said Clark.

The Colts had five guys catch at least five passes, led by Clark with seven for 86 yards. Austin Collie had six catches for 66 yards and Garcon caught five for 66 yards.

New Orleans rushed for only 51 yards, but Brees completed at least one pass to eight different receivers. Marques Colston and Devery Henderson hauled in seven passes each and combined for 146 yards receiving.

Pierre Thomas had only 30 yards rushing on nine carries, but caught six passes for 55 yards.

Notebook: Colts linebacker Gary Brackett had a game-high 13 tackles … Stover became the oldest player in Super Bowl history at 42 years and 11 days … Caldwell was trying to become only the third rookie head coach to win a Super Bowl (Don McCafferty won in 1970 with the Baltimore Colts and George Seifert in 1989 with San Francisco 49ers are the only two to accomplish the feat) … The Who played a four-song set list at halftime: “Pinball Wizard,” “Baba O’Reilly,” “Who Are You?” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees answers a question during Tuesday's media day at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.