|New Orleans Saints||Indianapolis Colts|
Super Bowl XLIV was an American football game pitting the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Indianapolis Colts against the National Football Conference (NFC) champion New Orleans Saints to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2009 season. The New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 31–17, earning their first Super Bowl win. Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns, was named the Super Bowl MVP. His 32 completions tied a Super Bowl record set by Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The game was played at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, and the game's kickoff took place at 6:28 p.m. EST (23:28 UTC) on February 7, 2010, the latest calendar date for a Super Bowl yet. The game was the Saints' first Super Bowl appearance and the fourth for the Colts franchise. Coincidentally, all four of the Colts' Super Bowl games have been played in Miami, with their first two games in the former Miami Orange Bowl and the last two in the current Miami stadium (which has changed names several times since its opening, most recently in January 2010).
The Saints entered the game with a 13–3 record for the 2009 regular season, compared to the Colts' 14–2 record. In the playoff games, both teams had a 1st round bye. The Colts entered the Super Bowl off of 20–3 and 30–17 victories, while the Saints advanced with scores of 45–14 and 31–28 (in overtime), defeating last year's runners up the Arizona Cardinals in their first game. The Pittsburgh Steelers, as defending champions, failed to make the playoffs based on tiebreakers. It was the first time since Super Bowl XXVIII (16 years previously) that both number one seeds have reached the Super Bowl. The Saints' head coach was Sean Payton, having joined from the Dallas Cowboys in 2006, while his opposing head coach Jim Caldwell was appointed the Colts head coach in 2009 having joined them in 2002 as assistant head coach.
It was the tenth time the Super Bowl has been held in Miami at the home stadium of the Miami Dolphins: the now-Sun Life Stadium had hosted four previous Super Bowls (XXIII, XXIX, XXXIII, and XLI) and five were played in the Dolphins' now demolished former home, the Miami Orange Bowl (II, III, V, X, XIII). The game was broadcast live on CBS, and the halftime show featured the English rock band The Who.
Per convention as an even numbered Super Bowl, the Colts as the AFC representatives had the home team designation, wearing blue jerseys with white pants, while the Saints (who wore their white jerseys in several home games this year) wore white jerseys with gold pants. The Saints victory extended the white jersey winning streak to six, dating back to Super Bowl XXXIX, while the Colts dropped to 0–2 all-time wearing their blue jerseys, the other loss being their infamous loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.
The weather forecast for the Miami area on Sunday, February 7 was for a high temperature of approximately 68 °F (20 °C) with mostly clear skies.
New Orleans first drive
Kickoff occurred at 6:28 p.m. EST (23:28 UTC), with New Orleans catching it for a 20 yard return by Courtney Roby, followed by a 8 yard gain by Pierre Thomas. The drive was concluded after a missed 3rd down with a 42 yard punt by Thomas Morstead, with no return due to the receiver being covered by Courtney Roby.
Indianapolis first drive
With the ball on Indianapolis's 27 yard line, the Colts started a drive consisting of an 18 yard pass to Dallas Clark, a 6 yard rush by Joseph Addai,another 6 yard pass to Dallas Clark, a 3 yard run by Pierre Garcon, a 19 yard pass to Austin Collie, and another 3 yard run by Addai. A penalty was called by referee Scott Green, for a false start by Kyle DeVan, resulting in a 5 yard loss for the Colts. The drive continued, with a 7 yard run by Addai. On the subsequent third down, Peyton Manning overthrew his pass to Pierre Garcon. Indianapolis place kicker Matt Stover, the oldest Super Bowl player ever, kicked the ball 38 yards for a field goal, making the score 3–0.
New Orleans second drive
Courtney Roby returned the Colts's 68 yard kickoff for a gain of 26 yards. Approaching the 25-yard line, Roby swooped into a dive and fumbled the ball, however it was recovered by Chris Reis. The drive continued with a 4 yard pass to Marques Colston, a 16 yard pass to Reggie Bush, and a 3-yard run by Reggie Bush, which were followed by two balls that were just barely missed by Marques Colston. On 4th down and seven yards to go, the Saints punted, a 46-yard kick that was downed at Indianapolis's 4 yard line.
Indianapolis second drive
Starting from their position on their 4 yard line, Peyton Manning passed the ball to Donald Brown, who ran for 11 yards. This play was followed by an incomplete pass to Brown, a 15-yard run by Addai, an incomplete pass by Manning (to avoid a sack), a 12 yard rush by Addai, a 5 yard pass to Reggie Wayne, a 4 yard rush by Brown, and a 26-yard run by Addai. This was his longest of the season and his first 25+ yard rush since Christmas Eve of 2006. After an incomplete pass to Wayne and a a 4-yard run by Brown, the 10-play drive culminated in a 19-yard pass to Pierre Garcon for a touchdown. This elevated the Colts' lead to 9–0, and Matt Stover's extra point gave the Colts a 10–0 lead.
The Saints responded with a drive for a 40-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley, to score their first points of the game and narrow the Colts lead to 10–3. In the final two minutes of the first half, the Saints drove to a first-and-goal at the Colts 3-yard line. But a false start penalty set them back to the 8, and they attempted 3rd and 4th down runs from the 1-yard line. This failed, and the Colts moved the ball somewhat before punting back to the Saints. After a short drive to the Colts 27, Hartley kicked another field goal as time expired. The score at halftime stood at Colts 10, Saints 6, the first 10–6 halftime score in Super Bowl history.
The Saints successfully recovered a surprise onside kick to gain possession of the ball at the beginning of the half, finishing the unexpected drive with a touchdown to take the lead 13–10. Manning and the Colts answered with their own touchdown drive. With 6:21 left in the quarter, Joseph Addai scored from the 4-yard line to put the Colts back on top 17–13.
Hartley would bring the Saints to within one point, 17-16, with his third field goal of the game, this one from 47 yards. In doing so he became the first kicker in Super Bowl history with three field goals of 40+ yards in one game.
The Saints' Tracy Porter intercepted Manning's pass, resulting in a Saints touchdown. Porter's interception return for a touchdown continued the Super Bowl trend that a team scoring on an interception return wins the championship game.
Pro Bowl changes
The 2010 Pro Bowl was played on January 31, during the off-week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, breaking with the precedent of scheduling the game for the Sunday after the Super Bowl. The game also changed venues from Aloha Stadium in ʻAiea, Hawaii, where it had been held since 1979, to Sun Life Stadium in Miami (the same city and stadium hosting the Super Bowl itself). A total of 14 players from the Super Bowl participants – seven each from the Colts and the Saints – did not play in the Pro Bowl. The new schedule took advantage of the bye week given to the conference champions to rest and prepare for the Super Bowl. The NFL has indicated this may not be a permanent transition, and has discussed a possible rotating location for the Pro Bowl in the future. The game will return to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012, however.
The move also meant that the Pro Bowl, which was won by the AFC by a score of 41–34, would avoid competing against the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, the second full day of competition in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the 52nd running of the Daytona 500, as would have been the case had the game been played on February 14 per its traditional post-Super Bowl scheduling.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints finished the season with an NFC best 13–3 record and went on to advance to the first Super Bowl in their 43 years as an NFL team. It had been a long journey for New Orleans. After joining the NFL in 1967, it took them 21 years to record their first winning season and another 13 years after that to win their first playoff game. Five years later, the New Orleans area suffered another setback when the Louisiana Superdome was devastated with the rest of the city by Hurricane Katrina, forcing them to play all of their home games in 2005 elsewhere as they finished with a 3–13 record. But in the offseason, the team's fortunes began to turn. First, they signed pro bowl quarterback Drew Brees, who would go on to throw for more passing yards than any other quarterback over the next four seasons. They also drafted multi-talented Heisman Trophy winning running back Reggie Bush and receiver Marques Colston, two players who would become major contributors on the Saints offense. The following season, New Orleans improved to 10–6 and advanced to the NFC title game for the first time, which they lost to the Chicago Bears. Although they failed to make the playoffs over the next two seasons, they continued to sign new talent, and by 2009 they were ready to make another run at the Super Bowl.
The Saints offense led the NFL in scoring, averaging just under 32 points per game. Brees finished the season as the NFL's top rated quarterback (109.6), completing an NFL-record 70.6% of his passes for 4,338 yards and 34 touchdowns, with just 11 interceptions. His top target was Colston, who caught 70 passes for 1,074 yards and 9 touchdowns, but he had plenty of other weapons, such as receivers Devery Henderson (51 receptions), Robert Meachem (45), along with tight ends Jeremy Shockey (48) and Dave Thomas (35). The ground attack was led by running backs Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell. Thomas rushed for 793 yards and caught 39 passes for 302, while Bell added 654 yards on the ground. Bush was also a major contributor, rushing for 390 yards (with a 5.6 yards per carry average), catching 47 passes for 335 yards, and adding another 130 yards returning punts. New Orleans also had a strong offensive line with three pro bowl selections: guard Jahri Evans, center Jonathan Goodwin, and tackle Jon Stinchcomb
Pro Bowl defensive lineman Will Smith led the team in sacks with 13. Another big weapon on defense was linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who led the team with 87 tackles and intercepted three passes. The Saints secondary was led by 12-year veteran safety Darren Sharper, who recorded 9 interceptions and set an NFL record by returning them for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Cornerback Tracy Porter was also effective, recording 49 tackles and 4 picks.
Like the Colts, the Saints also started out the season strong, winning their first 13 games. But then they became the first 13–0 team ever to lose their last three games of the year. After losing their next game to the Dallas Cowboys 24–17, they suffered a narrow loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime after Garrett Hartley missed a potential game winning field goal, and then closed out the season with a 23–10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Still, they clinched the #1 NFC playoff seed and scored 76 points in their two playoff wins en route to their first ever Super Bowl.
Indianapolis stormed to an NFL best 14–2 record on their way to earning their second Super Bowl appearance in the last four years. Once again, the Colts boasted a powerful offense led by 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning, who threw for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns during the season, with only 16 interceptions, earning him a 99.9 passer rating and a league record fourth National Football League Most Valuable Player Award. Under the protections of pro bowl center Jeff Saturday and the rest of the line, Manning had been sacked just 13 times during the regular season, the fewest in the NFL. His top targets were veteran receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark, who both recorded 100 receptions and 10 touchdowns. Wayne led the team with 1,260 yards, while Clark was second with 1,106. Manning also had other reliable targets, such as recently acquired receivers Austin Collie (60 receptions for 676 yards and 7 touchdowns) and Pierre Garçon (47 receptions for 756 yards). Running back Joseph Addai led the Colts ground game with 821 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, while also catching 51 passes for another 336 yards and 3 scores.
Indianapolis's defensive line was led by pro bowl defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. Freeney led the team with 13.5 sacks, while Mathis added 9.5 sacks and forced 5 fumbles. Behind them, the Colts had a solid corps of linebackers featuring Clint Session and Gary Brackett, who each recorded 80 tackles. Pro bowl safety Antoine Bethea led the secondary with 70 tackles and four interceptions.
Under their new coach Jim Caldwell, the Colts started off the season with 14 consecutive wins before suffering their first loss to the New York Jets, 29–15, a game in which Caldwell made the controversial decision to rest his starters after the team took a slim lead rather than keep them in to play for a chance at a 16–0 season. Indianapolis finished the season at 14–2 following another loss in which they rested their starters and went on to advance to the Super Bowl, making them perfect in all their games in which their starters played all four quarters.
Caldwell leads the Colts to the Super Bowl the season after Tony Dungy retired, just like in Tampa Bay when Jon Gruden led the Bucs to Super Bowl XXXVII after Dungy was fired. Senior offensive line coach Howard Mudd will retire following the game.