Remembering Super Bowl XLIV: Ambush, interception and Amen, Amen, Amen
For decades, it was unthinkable. Inconceivable. Impossible. And, then, at 8:46 p.m. on Feb. 7, 2010, the impossible happened. The final whistle blew, ending Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, and the New Orleans Saints — the Saints! — were champions, defeating the Indianapolis Colts 31-17. Perennially one of the least successful teams in the NFL prior to head coach Sean Payton’s arrival in 2006, the Saints established themselves as the team to beat during the 2009 season, winning their first 13 games and, as the Mardi Gras parade season was appropriately getting underway, capturing the franchise’s only Super Bowl title — so far.
The Saints have yet to return to even the NFC Championship Game, let alone the Super Bowl, since their title and they have finished 7-9 each of the last three seasons. But thanks to the 2009 team, the dream of winning a Super Bowl is no longer the Impossible Dream.
- Saints kicker Garrett Hartley, whose game-winning field goal in overtime against Minnesota two weeks earlier sent the Saints to the Super Bowl, set a Super Bowl record by making three field goals of 40-plus yards in the game.
- “Ambush” became part of Super Bowl lore because of this game. That was the name the Saints gave to an onside kick they used for a game-turning play to start the second half. Rookie Thomas Morstead made the kick and safety Chris Reis and linebacker Johnathan Casillas made the recovery, which led to a go-ahead touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Pierre Thomas.
- Brees was named MVP of the game. On the go-ahead drive midway through the fourth quarter, Brees completed all eight of his pass attempts to eight different receivers, including a 2-yard touchdown to tight end Jeremy Shockey and a two-point conversion to receiver Lance Moore.
- The Times-Picayune “Amen” edition of Feb. 8, 2010 — the day after the Super Bowl — holds the record as the best-selling edition in the newspaper’s 180-year history.
- Of the 63 players on the Saints’ Super Bowl roster, only five were still with the team at the close of the 2016 campaign: Brees, Morstead, defensive back Roman Harper, and offensive linemen Zach Strief and Jahri Evans.
- With the city at the time still rebounding from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and post-storm flooding, the Saints’ Super Bowl appearance became legitimate news. Among TV outlets visiting the city for “comeback” stories were ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “CBS Evening News” and MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” — renamed “The Rachel Maddeaux Sheaux” for the occasion.
When the NFL granted a franchise to New Orleans, the banner headline in the States-Item screamed “N.O. GOES PRO!.” The Saints’ Super Bowl victory elevated the Crescent City even higher – and, coming fewer than five years into the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, was a special kind of lagniappe.