The 'Aints' no more: New Orleans wins Super Bowl, 31-17

The city of New Orleans has faced many tough questions over the course of the last several years. Now, it's time to find an answer to an easier one: How in the world is anyone going to find enough time for all these parades?

Concluding a season that has lifted the spirits of a city, the Saints are Super Bowl champions as a result of another sensational game, one that resulted in a 31-17 win.

Despite a solid performance by two of the game's best quarterbacks, Drew Brees would ultimately top Peyton Manning in a memorable fourth-quarter duel between the pair.

But while Brees completed eight straight passes on a 59-yard touchdown drive, an interception by Manning that was returned by the Saints' Tracy Porter for a touchdown sealed the game's fate.

For much of the game, it seemed to be Manning's game to win.

But after throwing 14 passes in the first quarter, Manning didn't have the opportunity to keep carving. As a result, the Saints' ability to control the clock changed the game's complexion. No longer did the Colts possess a sense of unstoppable swagger.

Everybody knew the Colts would need Manning to win. And for one quarter, we saw why. During a span that lasted 20:36, Manning threw only two passes. The Colts' only two possessions of the second quarter ended in three-and-outs.Meanwhile, the Saints started to pester. Coach Sean Payton's confidence started to surface. And New Orleans, always gritty and never dead, refused to relent once more.

A failed fourth-down attempt on Indianapolis' goal line proved Payton's willingness to go bold, even if it also seemed at the time to provide the Colts with a boost that could foreshadow a possible outcome.

But the Colts didn't attack. They relented.

On the ensuing series, with 1:49 remaining, Caldwell approved three consecutive running plays. The Colts went three-and-out, allowing the Saints to charge back for a quick field goal, pulling the game to a four-point deficit.

While Caldwell went conservative, Payton was constructing a gutsy plan to make him pay for it.

The Saints would open the second half with an onside kick that restored hope and produced a level of momentum that had been previously one-sided. Down only four points, linebacker Jonathan Casillas jumped on a quick kickoff by Thomas Morstead.

A sense of belief never seemed to leave the Saints' sideline. It never left Brees' mind.

During the fourth quarter, when New Orleans finally got the ball back after a Colts drive that ended with a field goal, he picked apart Indianapolis' defense. No longer was New Orleans attempting to rush around the edge.

Instead, Brees completed eight consecutive passes to orchestrate a 59-yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard touchdown catch by tight end Jeremy Shockey and a successful two-point conversion pass to Lance Moore.

The inability to get Manning more opportunities in the second quarter suddenly was coming back to haunt the Colts.Making it all the more obvious, when Manning did get the ball in his hands, brilliance often followed.

On two separate instances — a 19-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon in the first quarter and a 27-yard completion to Dallas Clark in the third quarter — Manning threw high-velocity passes on flawlessly timed routes.

But by the fourth quarter, this wasn't Manning's game at all. It belonged to Brees. It belonged to a quarterback who put a team on his shoulders and carried them to a Super Bowl victory.

Related stories from McClatchy DC