#2 - Super Bowl XLIV: Saints - 31 vs. Colts - 17
In 2009, the New Orleans Saints were one of three teams in the NFL who had never appeared in a Super Bowl nor won an NFL Championship in the pre-Super Bowl era. The other two were the 15-year old Jaguars, and the 8-year old Texans. The Saints were in their 43rd year of existence. Entering the 2009 playoffs, none of the prior 43 years mattered in New Orleans. The Saints sat at 13-3 and had clinched the first top overall seed in the NFC playoffs in team history. A few weeks later they would find themselves in the only place they had never been before, the Super Bowl.
Waiting for them in the Super Bowl were the 14-2 Colts led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning who had just won his fourth MVP. The Colts had been one of the strongest and most consistent teams in the NFL, making the playoffs every year since 2002, and had won the Super Bowl just three seasons prior.
Despite this, Drew Brees and the Saints had no cause to believe this was an insurmountable task. They had already defeated two future Hall of Fame, MVP winning, and Super Bowl champion quarterbacks in Kurt Warner and Brett Favre the prior two games, and sported the top ranked offense in the NFL, a feat they achieved for the third time in the four years under Sean Payton. Now, five years after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and nearly losing the team altogether, New Orleans stood on the cusp of winning their first major professional sports title.
Early in the first quarter, it looked as if the Colts and Manning were on their way to solidify their place as the dominant team in the NFL in the late 2000s. They jumped out to a 10-point lead following a 96-yard touchdown drive, and the Saints top offense up to that point had been forced to punt on their first two drives. Only one team prior had managed to overcome a 10-point deficit in the Super Bowl, when Washington in Super Bowl 22 also found themselves down 10-0 in the first quarter, but then managed to score 35 points in the second quarter. The Saints would not have quite that much success in the second quarter of Super Bowl 44, but did manage to score six unanswered points to bring themselves to within four points at halftime. Despite making it a one score game, the Saints had also been stuffed on the goal line earlier in the second quarter resulting in a turnover on downs on the Colts 3-yard line. They needed something to take the momentum, not wait for it to come to them.
Nine months prior, the Saints had traded up in the draft to select a punter in the fifth round named Thomas Morstead. Fast forward to the opening kickoff of Super Bowl 44, head coach Sean Payton trusted the 23-year old rookie to execute the gutsiest call in Super Bowl history. Known as “Ambush” Payton had been convinced by his former mentor Bill Parcells that in order to win a game of this magnitude, he had to have “you know what”. Nothing screams “you know what” more than an onside kick while trailing in your franchises first ever Super Bowl facing a Hall of Fame quarterback.
The surprise onside kick was executed flawlessly, and was recovered by safety Chris Reis, who, until signing with the Saints in 2007, had been a member of such lesser teams as NFL Europe’s Cologne Centurions and the Atlanta Falcons. Brees and the Saints took full advantage of the onside kick, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown to take a 13-10 lead.
The Colts would respond with a touchdown of their own, and following a Saints field goal on the next drive and then a missed field goal by the Colts, Drew Brees took the field with 10:39 left in the Super Bowl down just a single point. On the ensuing drive, Brees would complete all seven pass attempts to seven different receivers, the last of which resulted in a 2-yard touchdown to tight end Jeremy Shockey. Brees would then complete an eighth pass to an eighth receiver in Lance Moore to convert a two-point conversion that put the Saints up seven points with just under six minutes left in the game.
At the time, Payton Manning was tied with former Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas for the most 4th quarter comebacks in NFL history, a record he would ultimately break and retire with. Just that season, Manning had pulled off seven fourth quarter comebacks, accounting for half of the Colts wins in the regular season. Now, facing the Saints 26th ranked pass defense, with a chance to tie the game or take the lead and win his second championship in four years, against a team that had taken 43 years just to get to this seven point lead, surly the future Hall of Famer will take the ball right down the field and finish this game off.
The Colts started driving. Manning had completed three straight passes to move Indy to the Saints 31 yard line with 3:24 remaining in the 2009 NFL season. On 3rd and 5, the Colts ran a route combination that included Austin Collie going in motion before the snap and All-Pro Reggie Wayne running a slant, a play that more often than not would result in the first down. Tracey Porter and the Saints knew this was coming though, tipped off by the pre-snap motion and two weeks worth of studying the Colts tendencies on third down. Porter discreetly nodded at rookie safety Malcom Jenkins as they both knew what was about to happen, but did not want to give away that they had Manning and the Colts right where they wanted them.
Sure enough, the slant came, Porter jumped the route, and in a matter of seconds, all the pain and suffering and heartache of a team and city that had been losing for 43 years, vanished.
However, the Saints and New Orleans may never have reached this point had it not been for a game three seasons prior...
Watch highlights of Super Bowl XLIV here
Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, follow us on Instagram at @SaintsCSC, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @HaydenReel.