Notebook: Keeping Things On An Even Keel

Kurt Warner hit by Will Smith (AP)

Kurt Warner believes in the Saints. But he knows they'll need a little luck which is why he sent coach Sean Payton Fairy Tale Brownies before the game. Even if Warner didn't get his happy ending, perhaps Payton's Saints can.

--Sunday's game between the Saints and Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV will mark only the third time -- and the first since 1993 -- that the No. 1 seeds from the NFC and AFC will meet in the title game under the current playoff format.

Since 1990, when the postseason field was expanded to include six teams from each conference, the only years the top seeds advanced were in the 1991 and '93 seasons.

In 1991, the Washington Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills, 37-24, in Super Bowl XXVI. Two years later, the Dallas Cowboys topped the Bills, 30-13, in Super Bowl XXVII.

--The Colts (14-2) and Saints (13-3) combined for 27 victories in the regular season, which is tied for third-most among the Super Bowl participants in the 43-year history of the title game.

The most wins by two teams is 29 by the San Francisco 49ers (15) and Miami Dolphins (14) in Super Bowl XIX. The Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons combined to win 28 games, 14 for each team, prior to their meeting in Super Bowl XXXIII.

The Colts and Saints are tied with the New England Patriots (14) and Philadelphia Eagles (13) in Super Bowl XXXIX and the Washington Redskins (14) and Buffalo Bills (13) in Super Bowl XXVI.

--Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Wednesday was named the winner of the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Year Award for the third time in four seasons.

Brees this time beat out Peyton Manning of the Colts and Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings in an online vote of NFL fans. Brees also won in 2006 and 2008.

Because Brees was at practice Wednesday, wife Brittany accepted the award. She also picked up a check for $25,000 for the Safe Kids Coalition in New Orleans. Safe Kids is a national organization that works to prevent accidental injury among children.

--The players who block for Brees earned some recognition of their own Wednesday when they won the inaugural Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award.

Tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb, center Jonathan Goodwin, and guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks won over the offensive lines from Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Tennessee and the New York Jets.

"That's a good award and an award for the whole offense, really, just like any other award," Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer said. "Drew avoids sacks. The offensive line does a nice job protecting, the running backs do a nice job pass protecting, and Drew gets it out.

"The receivers understand the timing of routes, so it's the whole offense. That goes from (coach) Sean Payton down to the last guy on offense."

G. Hartley vs Buccaneers
(AP Photo /Bill Feig)

--During Media Day on Tuesday, Saints kicker Garrett Hartley told how his life has changed since his 40-yard field goal in overtime beat the Minnesota Vikings, 31-28, in the NFC title game and locked up the Saints' first Super Bowl appearance.

Hartley said it's been funny, especially when he's recognized in a New Orleans-area restaurant and gets a standing ovation on his way out.

"It really just tickles me to death how they perceive me now," Hartley added. "But at the same time, how would people have perceived me if things didn't work out that way? That's how I keep myself on an even keel."

--Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who announced his retirement last week, apparently isn't bitter about having his career end with a loss to the Saints in a divisional playoff game on Jan. 16.

Warner, a future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, wished the Saints luck for the rest of the playoffs by sending the coaching staff a box of Fairy Tale Brownies before they defeated the Vikings.

Saints coach Sean Payton said they received another box of brownies from Warner last Friday. He said Warner explained that they were good luck for the game with the Vikings, so he sent another.

"He's a first-class person," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "He's had a special career. I think this league's better having had a Kurt Warner play in it."

--Payton and Brees will be among those recognized during the NFL Alumni Player of the Year Awards Dinner on Friday night in Hollywood, Fla.

The event honors the top offensive, defensive and special teams players, as well as the coach of the year in the NFL. Payton was chosen as the league's top coach and Brees was voted the season's top quarterback by former NFL players.

Each honoree will receive his award from a Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee although Payton and Brees will not be able to attend because they'll be just two days away from Super Bowl XLIV.

BY THE NUMBERS: 21 -- NFL coaches that have won the Super Bowl in their first appearance. Saints coach Sean Payton or Colts coach Jim Caldwell will join the club with a win Sunday night in Super Bowl XLIV. It will mark the fourth straight year that a coach will win in his first try.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know what I should have said. Maybe I should've said we're going to blow him kisses or send him a Valentine's Day card, or something like that. But I don't know that would have been the right message to send to the defensive guys that I have." -- Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, on the controversy created when he said that his team will have to get heavy pressure on Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV.

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