Saints eager to deliver Super Bowl victory to New Orleans

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The partying in the French Quarter had barely started when the New Orleans Saints began to turn their attention from the thrilling victory they just had crafted in the biggest game in franchise history to the even bigger game that awaits.

After beating Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings in overtime Sunday evening at the Superdome in the NFC championship game, the Saints could begin readying for a Super Bowl matchup with the Indianapolis Colts and another elite quarterback, Peyton Manning.

Not only will it be Manning against his hometown team and the team for which his father, Archie, played, but it also will be Manning against the quarterback who finished second to him in this season's NFL most valuable player voting, the Saints' Drew Brees.

"It doesn't get any easier," Brees said late Sunday night. "Obviously we know what type of team the Colts are, what type of organization they are and have been for a long time. They're a dynasty in their own right. With the season they've had and the season we've had, I can't think of two better teams to meet in the Super Bowl.

"I know there's going to be a lot of story lines, obviously with Peyton being from New Orleans and all those things. But the fact is there's two great teams playing. It should be a heck of a game."

The Saints beat Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner in the second round of the playoffs. They beat Favre in the NFC title game. Now they'll have to beat Manning if they're going to secure the first Super Bowl triumph in franchise history.

"You're talking about three future Hall of Famers," Brees said.

It's the first time since the 1993 season that the top playoff seed in each conference advanced to the Super Bowl. The Colts and Saints were the league's top teams all season, with the Saints winning their first 13 games and the Colts winning their first 14 games. It was the first time in NFL history that two teams were 13-0 in the same season.

But the Saints stumbled down the stretch, losing their final three regular season games. The Colts chose not to chase an unbeaten season, with Coach Jim Caldwell sitting down Manning and other key players in the second-to-last game of the regular season to keep them healthy for the playoffs. The Colts lost that game and their regular season finale at Buffalo, and some observers wondered if they and the Saints were vulnerable entering the postseason.

They weren't. The Colts beat the Baltimore Ravens with relative ease in an AFC semifinal and rallied from a first-half deficit to coast past the Jets, 30-17, on Sunday. The Saints beat the Vikings, 31-28, on kicker Garrett Hartley's 40-yard field goal on the opening possession of overtime.

"It was fate for this team to be playing in the Super Bowl this year," Hartley said. "I'm just honored to be part of it."

A citywide celebration erupted after the game and lasted into the early hours Monday morning. The streets and sidewalks in and around the French Quarter were jammed with people late Sunday night. Traffic was at a standstill, as motorists honked in jubilation and passengers hung out of car windows. One woman with a drink in hand walked boldly up to a police cruiser stopped in the traffic and yelled to the officers inside: "Can you believe it? We won!"

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