Peyton Manning's heroics in the fourth quarter were a big reason why the Colts were in the Super Bowl. He helped the team come from behind to win a post-1970 NFL record seven games in the fourth quarter during the regular season and it looked like there was a pretty good chance at number eight with just over three minutes left on Sunday night.
And then Tracy Porter happened. Mardi Gras hasn't even started yet, but we're pretty sure it will never end.
Porter stepped in front of a pass intended for Reggie Wayne, took it 74 yards for a touchdown and made Bourbon Street the center of the universe. A city that knows how to get its groove on will be in rare form thanks to the Saints' 31-17 victory and first Super Bowl title. As great as Porter's play was -- and we don't believe anyone who says they stayed in their seat during his runback -- he'll have to share space on a parade float with Drew Brees and Sean Payton.
Payton gets his spot on the back of one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history. His decision to try an onside kick to start the second half could have sent his team into a deep hole and made victory impossible. Coming after a failed fourth down attempt near the end zone at the end of the first half, it would have made him one of the biggest goats in the history of the big game. Those are the risks of playing the Herman Edwards "We play to win the game" style. It worked, though, and he'll never pay for a drink in the French Quarter ever again.
Brees, the game's very deserving MVP, tied a Super Bowl record with 32 completions and went 29 of 32 after the first quarter while throwing a pair of touchdowns. It may have taken him 15 minutes to get over any Super Bowl jitters, but his performance made it worth the wait. He didn't force passes that weren't there, settling for shorter throws to running back Pierre Thomas. That kept the Colts offense off the field and allowed the Saints to outscore the Colts 31-7 in the final 45 minutes.
More than anything else, though, Brees didn't blink. Manning did. It was a fine play by Porter, but it was a bad throw by Manning and that's how it will be remembered. He's going to hear a lot about it this offseason and all the Colts will hear a lot of comparisons to the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s and early 2000s. Dominant regular season teams with tons of talent that, more often than not, lost their footing when the lights shine brightest.
Some of the blame for that must fall on coach Jim Caldwell. He's mocked a lot for his placid demeanor, which is only a problem when his team plays as passively as he looks. That's just what happened as the game unfolded as the Saints took chance after chance and the Colts refused to join the battle until it was already lost.
There's plenty of time to talk about that, though. Right now is the moment to talk about the Saints. Years of awful football and paper bags on heads seem like distant memories, replaced by the guts of Payton and the brilliance of Brees in the biggest game in the history of the franchise.