The five 'could-have-been' MVPs

There's absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Saints quarterback Drew Brees(notes) deserved the Super Bowl MVP award -- his stat line of 32-of-39 for 288 yards and two touchdowns told the story. It was especially impressive considering that the Saints struggled early, and Brees recovered to play masterfully. But football is the ultimate team sport, and there are other Saints players who should go away from the most important game of their lives very proud of their performances. Here are five who might have been the MVP under different circumstances:

Tracy Porter(notes) -- Everyone's wondering why Reggie Wayne(notes) only got five catches in the Super Bowl. Truth was, he was targeted 11 times, more than any other receiver on either team. And Porter, the man most responsible for covering him, put up the game of his life, His outstanding break on the short comeback to Wayne late in the game that led to the interception touchdown was a triumph of football intellect and the will to know one's opponent, but Porter had been playing well all night long.

Jonathan Vilma(notes) -- The Saints' linebacker has played great all year, but he made a play in the fourth quarter that was almost as big as Porter's interception. With 10:51 left in the game and the Colts up 17-16 and rolling from the New Orleans 33-yard line on third-and-11, Peyton Manning(notes) threw over the middle and deep to Austin Collie(notes), But Vilma was there to break up the play that would have been a sure touchdown otherwise. Vilma finished the game with seven solo tackles and two tackles for loss, but that deflection proved his ability to make plays when his team needs them by dropping into coverage ina way that few middle linebackers can.

Courtney Roby(notes) -- What? A special teamer in consideration for the MVP? Well, consider this: The Saints started their average drive at their own 29. The Colts started their drives on average at their own 17. Roby, a backup receiver, had a great deal to do with that -- he averaged 25.5 yards on four kick returns, stopped the return of the Saints' first punt for no gain, and downed the punt with 5:22 left in the first quarter at the Colts' own 4-yard line. In a game as close as this one, special teams can be the deciding factor, and nobody was more important in that department than Roby.

Garrett Hartley(notes) -- And speaking of special teams, what about this kid? Hartley became the first kicker to make three field goals of 40 or more yards in one Super Bowl, and it was his foot that kept the Saints in the game as they were dissecting the Colts' defense.

Pierre Thomas(notes) -- The Saints' prime mover in their running back rotation gained only 30 yards on nine attempts on the ground, but he picked up 55 yards on six receptions, including a third-quarter touchdown in which he seemed to bounce off or go through every Colts defender. That's been his style all season, and it paid off once again.

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