The New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts Sunday in Super Bowl XLIV, finishing off a memorable season that included many highs, a few lows, and ultimately the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Saints won 31-17, in a game that was supposed to feature much more scoring than it actually did. As it is every year, there were plays that both defined and changed the game. This was seen even more clearly by the gutsy play-calling of Sean Payton, so here are the top five plays that defined the Saints’ victory over the Colts.
5. The Colts’ fourth-down goal line stand
While this play might seem as more of a defining moment for the Colts, it also set up the rest of the game for the Saints. Trailing 10-3 and knowing his team was going to have to put big points on the board to defeat Peyton Manning, Sean Payton opted to go for it on fourth and one from the Colts’ one-yard line.
Pierre Thomas ran off right tackle but was stuffed before he could find the endzone and the play resulted in a turnover on downs. But the play-call showed that Payton was not going to play scared against the Colts and that, in order to win the game, gutsy decisions needed to take place.
It should also be noted that the Saints then held the Colts to a three-and-out, and then ended up putting three points on the board anyways before halftime.
4. Lance Moore’s 2-point conversion being overturned
In a call I personally disagreed with, Lance Moore’s catch in the endzone was overturned to give the Colts a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter instead of a 22-17 lead, where a touchdown would have beat them. The call was originally an incomplete pass after a Colts’ defender inadvertently knocked the ball loose from a fully-extended Moore.
Regardless of if the call was right or not, the play changed the feel of the game where the Saints knew the best the Colts could do was tie the game up instead of winning it. It ended up not mattering as the Colts would not score the rest of the game, but who knows if Manning would have taken a shot down field had he known he could have won the game with a touchdown? The score changing from a five-point lead to a seven-point lead was crucial.
3. Garrett Hartley’s three-for-three field goal performance
What a fitting number for Garrett Hartley’s career night to come in at. After being the goat in a loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs, in which Hartley missed a potential game-winning field goal, he showed up big time in the Super Bowl and connected on all three of his field goal attempts.
In what seemed to be the playoffs from hell for kickers this postseason, Hartley showed poise and composure as he knocked all three field goals right down the pipe to keep the Saints in the game early.
He hit from 44, 46, and 47 yards out on the game’s biggest stage, including a last second field goal at the end of the first half. The conditions were less than ideal on the field after rain had hit Miami hard over the week, making his performance even more impressive.
2. Tracy Porter’s interception return for a touchdown
In what most people will decide was their defining moment that ultimately sealed the deal for the Saints, Tracy Porter came up with another huge interception that gave the Saints a two-touchdown lead with less than four minutes to play. Two weeks earlier, Porter intercepted Brett Favre at the end of regulation to force overtime against the Vikings.
Guarding Reggie Wayne was tough enough, but Porter read the route and stepped right in front of the Manning pass, and then returned it 74 yards for the score.
Just as ESPN puts in the sidebars, “it was over when…” Porter intercepted the pass. He will forever go down in Saints’ history as the best closer New Orleans has ever had.
1. The onside kick to start the second half
This play will forever be known in New Orleans as “the onside kick”. To open the second half, the Saints noticed that Indianapolis was playing more than 10 yards off the ball, making an onside kick a possibility. Thomas Morestead then preceded to pooch the ball perfectly and Hank Baskett failed to come up with it. The Saints would come out with the ball after one of the longest piles ever, and then ended the drive with a touchdown.
The call from Sean Payton has to be considered one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history. If the Saints do not come up with the ball, Peyton Manning has a four-point lead and 40 yards standing between him and the endzone. Game. Over.
Instead, the Saints changed the momentum of the game with the first ever successful onside kick in the Super Bowl prior to the fourth quarter. Porter might have finished off the game for the Saints, but this play will define the Saints for years to come.
*Bonus*: Drew Brees fighting back tears while holding his son after the game
If you turned the TV off after the game and missed this, go back and watch Brees holding his son after the game and fighting back tears. If you don’t like him or are indifferent to him, there’s no way you can root against Drew Brees in any fashion. It was “heartwarming”, “lump in your throat”, “chills all over”, whatever cliche you want to use. It was all those things and so much more, and I couldn’t be happier for Brees and his family.