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Super Bowl XLIV breakdown: Saints win

James C Black
Yahoo Sports
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FIRST QUARTER

MIAMI – The focus was on Dwight Freeney(notes) all week long. But in the opening quarter, it was teammate Peyton Manning(notes) commanding all of the attention.

Manning engineered a pair of first-quarter scores – the second an 11-play, 96-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown reception by Pierre Garcon(notes) to give the Colts a 10-0 lead.

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FIRST QUARTER DRIVE CHART

SCORE: Colts 10, Saints 0

Key play: Marques Colston(notes) lost his concentration at the wrong time. On second-and-7 from the 50-yard line, Drew Brees(notes) found Colston for what should have been a first down. Instead, the ball went through Colston's hands, hitting him right in the helmet. Another incompletion led to a punt, which resulted in the Colts' touchdown.

Key injury: Freeney was regularly on the field, but seemingly had no impact as Brees had time to look for his targets.

Key stat: Total yards (Colts 154, Saints 36).

SECOND QUARTER

After two non-productive first-quarter possessions, Drew Brees and the Saints found rhythm in the second. Unfortunately for New Orleans though, the increased offense led to a pair of field goals.

New Orleans got on the scoreboard with a 46-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley with 9:34. However, a later drive into the red zone ended with no points.

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SECOND QUARTER DRIVE CHART

SCORE: Colts 10, Saints 6

Key play: After Mike Bell slips down on 3rd-and-goal from the one, Sean Payton opts to go for it instead of kicking the sure field goal. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Brees hands off to Bell, who is stood up by Gary Brackett and dropped for no gain. Colts get the ball at their own 1 with 1:49 to go.

Health watch: Freeney made his presence felt, sacking Brees on third down with 10:09 left in the quarter.

Key stat: Total yards (Saints 143, Colts 15).

THIRD QUARTER

New Orleans' failure to score on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter didn't deter coach Sean Payton from making another risky call.

The Saints caught Indy off guard with an onside kick to start the second half. New Orleans' recovery was the start of a fast-paced third quarter that saw the teams score on three straight series.

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THIRD QUARTER DRIVE CHART

SCORE: Colts 17, Saints 16

Key play: On the opening kickoff of the second half, New Orleans goes for the onside kick and Saints' reserve safety Chris Reis recovers the ball at New Orleans' 44. Six plays later, Pierre Thomas scores on a 16-yard pass from Brees.

Health watch: Freeney went back to being a non-factor as Brees had an abundance of time to seek out his targets.

Key stat: Manning: 7-of-8 passing, 65 yards

FOURTH QUARTER

The Saints captured their first Super Bowl title by knocking off the Colts 31-17. New Orleans rallied in the fourth quarter, sparked by another big Sean Payton decision and huge play by the defense.

Following Jeremy Shockey's two-yard scoring reception with 5:42, Payton challenged the ruling on the field that Lance Moore did not catch the two-point conversion. After a booth review, it was ruled that Moore did indeed maintain possession.

New Orleans sealed the outcome with an interception return for a touchdown on Indy's ensuing possession.

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FOURTH QUARTER DRIVE CHART

FINAL SCORE: Saints 31, Colts 17

Key play: With 3:24 left, the Colts faced a third-and-5 on the Saints 31. Tracy Porter intercepted Manning's pass intended for Reggie Wayne and returns it 74 yards for the clinching touchdown.

Key injury: Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove left the game at 3:24 with a left leg injury. However, he returned on Indy's next possession, drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty.

Key stat: Saints outscore Colts 15-0.