Saints Beat Colts For First Super Bowl Win

The New Orleans Saints are the champions of the National Football League. The Saints beat the favored Colts by two touchdowns, 31-17 in Miami, to win their first championship. Saints quarterback Dree Brees tied a Super Bowl record for completions and was voted the game's MVP.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. Im Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And Im Renee Montagne.

And in New Orleans, someone is probably still partying as I tell you this. For the first time ever, the Saints are champions of the National Football League. The Saints rallied from behind to beat the favored Indianapolis Colts, 31 to 17, in Miami. Two key plays helped the Saints win.

NPRs Mike Pesca was at the game and has this report.

MIKE PESCA: The Colts fans dressed like football fans - jerseys that said Freeny or Wayne, but mostly Manning. The Saints fans dressed like revelers. Maybe they knew a party was nigh. Or maybe, as Mardi Gras precedes Lent, they knew to seek out fun while it lasts. The teams reflected the fans' mood. Indianapolis scored on their first two possessions. The Saints showed jitters. Saints quarterback Drew Brees overthrew an open receiver to end the first drive. Marques Colston dropped the pass on the next. Later, Colston admitted to a slow start.

Mr. MARQUES COLSTON (NFL Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints): We didnt execute, you know, as far as couple of possessions. You know, the first half was a little rocky for us.

PESCA: They had given away a couple of opportunities. In time, they would steal one back, which was important because early on, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning sensed what kind of game this would be.

Mr. PEYTON MANNING (NFL Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts): Every possession felt precious out there.

PESCA: This was why Saints coach Sean Payton gambled to start the second half. His team would be attempting an onside kick, a high-risk play that if bungled, would give the ball back to Manning in Saints territory. You might as well give the hangman your own noose. So, it was up to kicker Thomas Morstead, who sat in the half-time locker room, worried.

Mr. THOMAS MORSTEAD (NFL Punter, New Orleans Saints): No, I wasnt worried. I was just terrified.

PESCA: Sorry, terrified. Morstead was the teams punter and had only begun handling kick-off duties this year. And it wasnt his job to attempt onside kicks. For that, the Saints used field goal kicker Garrett Hartley. But to not tip their hand, the Saints had to rely on Morstead. All well and good except for that fact that Morstead didnt exactly have an extensive onside resume.

Mr. MORSTEAD: If we wanted to be able to do the surprise, you know, we had to -they just basically started trying different things with me. And about a week and a half ago, we finally decided on that one.

PESCA: Thats right. A punter who had never kicked off before this year, and had never attempted an onside kick before a week and half ago in practice, was called upon to execute the riskiest play in the Super Bowl. And CBS had the call.

(Soundbite of NFL commentary on CBS)

Sports Announcer: Onside kick to start the second half, and the ball bounces off the hands of the Colts - and it looks like the Saints had it for a second.

PESCA: It worked. That was momentum swing the Saints needed. They moved the ball down the field until Brees hooked up with Pierre Thomas to take the lead. That was the moment, Thomas said, he sensed the game shift.

Mr. PIERRE THOMAS (NFL Running Back, New Orleans Saints): You know, it was a quick little draw fake. All I was thinking about was getting in that end zone, cause this is going to be a big momentum swing.

PESCA: But everyone in the stadium knew Peyton Manning would be heard from again. And trailing by seven with a bit under six minutes left, he began to drive the Colts down field. He brought the team to the Saints 31-yard line, with 3:24 left to play. WWL Radio in New Orleans takes it from there.

(Soundbite of Super Bowl on WWL Radio)

Sports Announcer#2: Manning in the shotgun, puts Collie in motion. Looks in his direction its picked off! Its picked off! Its Tracy Porter again! He's running free; he is going to go all the way! In the stretch, it is a Saints touchdown, 70 yards on the return; 70 yards on the return!

PESCA: Porters defensive coordinator, Greg Williams, had called for an all-out blitz, and had trained men like Porter to react quickly to a throw. Taking a chance under pressure is what Greg Williams preaches.

Mr. GREG WILLIAMS (Defensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints): My whole life, I've been trying to speed up peoples decisions. Get people to play faster, get people to play nastier, get people to play tougher or more aggressive. So, once you get a guy that'll do that, please dont slow him down.

PESCA: Williams had trained his defense well. And Brees directed the offense with such precision, he was named the games MVP. Afterwards, he seemed to hand the award to the city itself.

Mr. DREW BREES (NFL Quarterback, New Orleans Saints): You know, four years ago, whoever thought this would be happening? You know, when 85 percent of the city was under water, most people not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back, or if the organization or the team would ever come back. And so many players that - our core group of players came in that year as free agents, and we just all looked at one another and said, you know, we are going to rebuild together. And this is the culmination of all that belief and that faith.

PESCA: Many doubted theyd ever be on top, the team or the city. But now, New Orleans is the envy of the football world. In fact, a party may be happening there as we speak - and for the foreseeable future.

Mike Pesca, NPR News.

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