Shutdown Corner - NFL

The New Orleans Saints, longtime residents of the bottom of the NFL barrel, now stand at the pinnacle of American sports. A thrilling Super Bowl XLIV ended with the Saints on top of the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17.

The New Orleans Saints are world champions. That feels so weird -- and so great -- to say.

The Saints got off to a slow start, but they never stopped playing aggressively and with a fierce passion. They were afraid of nothing, they took risks, and they went out and made the plays to beat a great football team.

I'd point to two key plays. First, obviously, was the brain-rattling Tracy Porter(notes) interception of Peyton Manning(notes) that went for a touchdown and, for all intents and purposes, put the game away. It was a shockingly bad throw from Manning and an electrifying return from Porter. That'll go down in the books as one of the great plays in Super Bowl history.

Maybe the real key, though, was the onside kick the Saints used to open the second half. The call from head coach Sean Payton took the guts of a thief, and it paid off immeasurably. The Saints never really relinquished momentum after Jonathan Casillas(notes) came out of that pile with the football. To me, that play personifies the Saints and their attitude in this game.

Fans just got their third straight classic Super Bowl. Two years ago, the Giants shocked the world by edging the Patriots. Last year, the Steelers and Cardinals went back and forth in a nail-biter, and this year, the Saints and Colts fought tooth and nail for 60 minutes. The final score might not show a thriller, but this thing was hotly contested until very late in the game. Things turned on one major mistake.

The fact that it was the Saints who won adds to the feeling that we just saw greatness. Between the years of miserable football and what they and their fans went through with Hurricane Katrina, it feels great to see them on top. I'm not a Saints fan, and I can't help but smile right now.

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