Five years ago Saturday, the Saints made their lone Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, and they emerged victorious, pulling away to a 31-17 win over Indianapolis in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Super Bowl XLIV was, in many ways, a legacy-making triumph for Saints quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton.
Brees was spectacular in his first Super Bowl appearance, completing 32-of-39 passes for 288 yards for two touchdowns and garnering MVP honors. He threw just one incompletion after halftime, connecting on 16-of-17 attempts for 124 yards and both TDs as New Orleans outscored Indianapolis 25-7 in the final two quarters.
Payton, meanwhile, oversaw a team and coaching staff that made the most of its chance on the Super Bowl stage. The Saints didn’t commit a turnover, and they were assessed just three penalties. They were sound, and they were well-prepared.
Most of all, the Saints weren’t scared.
The Saints’ onside kick to begin the second half was as bold as it was surprising. If it failed, the Colts — who led 10-6 — would have had the ball around the New Orleans 45.
However, Colts wide receiver Hank Baskett couldn’t handle Thomas Morstead’s bounding kick, and Saints safety Chris Reis recovered. Six plays later, the Saints took the lead on Brees’ 16-yard toss to Pierre Thomas.
Then, with the Saints holding on to a 24-17 lead late with 3:24 left, the defense made the game-clinching play. On a third-down play, the Saints blitzed, and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning aimed for Reggie Wayne. Cornerback Tracy Porter stepped in front, and he was on his way to a 74-yard touchdown.
Porter’s pick-six and the onside kick are part of Super Bowl lore, and they were products of a fearlessness that merits its own place in game history, too.