For one night at the Super Bowl, Brees, not Manning, is the best of his generation
MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. Late Sunday night, and Drew Brees has just outgunned the greatest quarterback of his generation, if not all time. The game MVP kept the league MVP off the field. The image of Peyton Manning, picked off by Tracy Porter in the final minutes, his coronation hijacked by the New Orleans Saints' gumption and their hunger for history, sealed it.
The game. The season. The bond. Between city and team.
Who dat? The Super Bowl champions.
Backed by a transcendent civic pride, borne out of the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, they outplayed the favored Colts and intercepted the most accomplished quarterback in the game in the final minutes to waltz home with the hardware, 31-17.
Who dat? The Super Bowl MVP, in black and gold, the second-most accurate passer in the big game's annals behind Phil Simms.
"Is it me?" Brees actually asked afterward, half-surprised anyone who threw for 288 yards, two second-half touchdowns and completed all but seven of his 39 attempts would earn the award. Afterward, amid sparkling red-and-white confetti, he spoke of his teammates and himself playing for more than an organization.
"Coming to New Orleans and having that opportunity there was definitely a calling, an opportunity that not many people in their entire life get to come to a city like that, that had just been devastated by a natural disaster," he said, adding, "Not only were we rebuilding an organization and a team, but also the city and the region and really a mentality.
"It's a mentality that, 'We've been through so much, but yet we're going to come back stronger.' It's unbelievable."
Super Bowl XLIV ceased being about Manning the moment Sean Payton pulled off one of the gutsiest coaching moves in postseason history.
That full-of-guile onside kick at the outset of the second half, recovered by the Saints after a never-ending pileup near midfield, was such an omen. Brees went right downfield, guiding New Orleans to their first lead of the game on a night he missed just three throws over the final three quarters.
Something was afoot the moment that gamble paid off with near perfection.
Coming back from 10 points down to beat the favored Colts, led by inarguably the best player in pro football, after that onside kick provided the game the beautiful bow the NFL and partisan-Bayou crowd wanted to wrap around the Saints the moment Porter picked off Brett Favre in the NFC title game and ended another iconic quarterback's season.