Alexa

Saints-Colts a Super matchup

Saints-Colts a Super matchup

The New Orleans Saints finally reach their first Super Bowl, and one of their city's favorite sons will be out to ruin it.
Peyton Manning was born and bred in the city the locals call Nawlins.
Yet when Manning leads his Indianapolis Colts onto the field next Sunday against the Saints in as juicy a Super Bowl matchup as anyone could imagine, all of New Orleans _ and pretty much any place in Bayou Country _ will be wishing the worst on one of their own.
Despite Manning's pedigree and polish, the Saints take precedence in their fans' quest for a first NFL championship.
Manning, whose father Archie was the first Saints superstar, understands.
"I'm very happy for the New Orleans Saints and, of course, the entire city of New Orleans," Manning says. "My parents live there, my older brother Cooper lives there. (Brother) Eli and I have both participated in philanthropic organizations down in New Orleans, whether it's Katrina relief or just various charities. So New Orleans is a huge part of my life. My dad's been a part of the Saints organization for 39 years in some ways. We definitely have strong ties.
"The Saints have had a great year. They deserve it, and I know the city is excited. And the New Orleans Saints players do just wonderful things for the community down there."
But it's Manning's job to spoil the party, to put some misery into the Miami Mardi Gras for those Saints and their fans. Nobody is better equipped to do so.
This season, the NFL's dominant player became the only four-time winner of the league MVP award. He led the Colts to the championship three years ago, in the rain in Miami, and could have gone into this year's finale with a perfect 18-0 record if the Colts hadn't withdrawn Manning and other regulars in the final two games of the regular season, when they'd already qualified for the playoffs.
Against two of the league's stingiest defenses in the playoffs _ Indy beat the Baltimore Ravens then the New York Jets _ Manning was masterful.
The Saints' defense isn't as highly rated but Manning still is cautious.
"You know a team is going to have a Super Bowl package," he says. "There are two weeks to prepare. That's more things they can change. You have to prepare for the unexpected."
The unexpected? Such as the Saints in the Super Bowl?
The Saints were one of five teams never to get this far; Detroit, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Houston are the remaining outsiders. Born in 1967, the Saints took 20 years to enjoy a winning season. They were so bad that fans wore paper bags over their heads in 1980 and called them the "Aints." They didn't win their first playoff game until 2000.
After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005, the Saints had no home, and their future was in doubt. But they became one of the most successful clubs in America's most popular league.
Times have been hard for New Orleans, which still is in recovery mode from Katrina. Nothing has provided quite the boost that the Saints' ascendancy has given locals.
Indeed, a city steeped in a culture all of its own shares a very fundamental trait with the rest of America: Pride in local triumph. It's not something Saints fans are accustomed to, but it's something quarterback Drew Brees believes can become habit.
"Winning definitely can be contagious," he says.
The best way to establish such a habit: Win next Sunday in the biggest game in New Orleans football history.
"It's a moment I've been waiting for for a long time," Brees said. "The job is not done yet but obviously we're going to enjoy this. Now we've got to finish it in Miami."
Can they? If history is an indicator, why not? After all, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had an even uglier resume and they won it all seven years ago, beating one of the premier teams, the Oakland Raiders.
We know the Saints will attack on offense, and getting in a shootout with the Colts is not such a bad idea; New Orleans led the league with 510 points. The Saints, who forced 39 turnovers, must be proactive on defense to match the aggressiveness with which the Colts have performed recently _ just as Indy did in its Super Bowl run after the 2006 season.
If Manning gets free rein, he's likely to have the answer for all those "Who Dats?" they're proudly screaming in the French Quarter.
It might even be a Big Easy for him.


Updated : 2020-12-02 05:42 GMT+08:00