At long last, the Saints can call themselves World Champions.
It took awhile, 43 years to be exact, but the Saints finally broke through with a win in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday night. And in doing so, they did what they did most of the season, by finishing a game -- this time in a 31-17 victory against the Indianapolis Colts.
After losing at least six games they could have won in 2008, they capped a magical season with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a two-point conversion to upend the Colts.
After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, the Saints (16-3) came back to get two field goals to reduce the deficit to 10-6 at halftime, then controlled the second half both offensively and defensively to stop Peyton Manning and the Colts from winning a second Super Bowl title in four seasons.
"We talked about it at halftime," Saints coach Sean Payton said of the early deficit. "We carried out the plan. I'm proud of this team and this coaching staff. Everybody back in New Orleans gets a piece of this trophy."
The Saints began their offseason workouts with a motto of "Finish Strong" after so many disappointing finishes during the 2008 season. But that was all forgotten during a season in which they came up time after time with the big plays to get them over the hump.
It was no different on Sunday night in Sun Life Stadium when the Colts took the big lead early only to watch the Saints come back until they got in striking distance going into the final quarter trailing 17-16.
Quarterback Drew Brees, who was named the MVP of the game, completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns. His 2-yard pitch to tight end Jeremy Shockey and two-point conversion pass to Lance Moore gave his team a 24-17 lead with just more than five minutes remaining before cornerback Tracy Porter sealed the deal by returning an interception 74 yards for a touchdown and 31-17 lead with 3:12 left.
"It was all meant to be," Brees said of the Saints' historic victory. "It was all destiny."
While it took a long time to get their first one, the Saints are hoping there are more to come as they return the core of their offense and defense in 2010.
Of their top players on both sides of the ball, only All-Pro free safety Darren Sharper and strong-side linebacker Scott Fujita are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
They could use a little more help on defense as they ranked 25th in total yards allowed and were 21st against the run. But they more than made up for that this season when they had 39 takeaways in the regular season and eight more in the playoffs.
--RB Lynell Hamilton, who plays primarily on special teams, was inactive for Super Bowl on Sunday night because of the sprained left ankle he sustained in the NFC Championship Game.
--CB Randall Gay apparently suffered an undisclosed injury early in Sunday's game with the Indianapolis Colts and played sparingly after that.
--LCB Jabari Greer suffered a bruised leg in the second quarter of Sunday's game, but returned on the next series and played the rest of the contest. While he was out, however, replacement Usama Young was beaten for a touchdown by WR Pierre Garcon.
--DT Anthony Hargrove sustained a lower leg injury in the fourth quarter against the Colts but returned a few plays later and finished the game.
--LB Troy Evans was helped off the field with an undisclosed injury after being injured on a kickoff return by the Colts late in the contest.