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Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints Defeat Indianapolis Colts 31-17

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The Colts franchise has played in four Super Bowls, and this week we're taking a trip down memory lane to look at each of them. Today, we look at Super Bowl XLIV, as the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

It's Super Bowl week, but unfortunately the Indianapolis Colts won't be playing in it, as this year's game features the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.  The Colts' franchise, dating back to their days in Baltimore, has played in four Super Bowls, however, and we're going to take a look at each one of those this week leading up to this year's Super Bowl.  Some games will be good ones for the Colts, while others won't be.  Today we look at the most recent Super Bowl the franchise has played in, a 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.

The Indianapolis Colts were just three years and three days removed from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, this time getting ready to take on the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 in Miami.

The Colts had finished the regular season 14-2 and had a legitimate chance at going 16-0 had they not rested their starters.  Peyton Manning won his record fourth MVP award behind one of his finest seasons in his career, and the Colts had defeated the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets to advance to their second Super Bowl in four years.  The Saints also were the number one seed in their conference, marking the first time since 1994 that the two top seeds would meet in the Super Bowl.  The Saints had defeated both the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs after a 13-3 regular season.

The Colts jumped off to a fast start on the biggest stage, as Matt Stover hit a 38-yard field goal (Adam Vinatieri was injured) and Peyton Manning found Pierre Garcon for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Colts a 10-0 first quarter lead.  From that point, however, a number of mistakes added up to cost the Colts - starting with one by Garcon.  In the second quarter Garcon had a flat out dropped pass that many, including former Colts head coach Tony Dungy, thinks changed the entire game.  Had Garcon caught that pass, it's likely that the Colts would have driven down the field to go up 17-3.

The next missed opportunity came later in the second quarter.  The Colts the ball with a couple of minutes remaining and decided to play conservative again, trying to get to halftime instead of putting the pressure on New Orleans.  That led to a punt, and the Saints turned that into another field goal before halftime.  Instead of being up 17-3 or more, the Colts were just up 10-6 because of missed opportunities.

During the extended Super Bowl halftime, star defensive end Dwight Freeney's injured ankle stiffened up and really limited his effectiveness in the second half.

And then, to start the second half was one of the gutsiest decisions in NFL history, as Saints head coach Sean Payton dialed up the surprise onside kick.  Had the Saints not recovered, it's likely Manning would have driven the Colts for a 17-6 lead.  Instead, the Colts had Hank Baskett, and the Saints recovered and would soon go up 13-10.

Joseph Addai scored on a four-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to give the Colts the lead again, 17-13.  The Saints narrowed the gap with a field goal, and entering the fourth quarter the Colts led 17-16.

That lead would last until there was just 5:42 left in the game, when Drew Brees hit Jeremy Shockey for a two-yard score and then hit the two point conversion pass to put the Saints up 24-17.  It was now up to the league's best quarterback and it's reigning MVP for the past two years in a row to lead one of his famous comebacks, this time in the NFL's biggest game.

The Colts were mounting a drive and had crossed midfield when Tracy Porter stepped in front of a slant pass that Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne could have hit in their sleep, but not this time.  Porter picked it off and he was gone, returning it 74-yards for the touchdown that sealed the game for the Saints.  New Orleans had their first Super Bowl victory, beating the Colts 31-17.  Saints quarterback Drew Brees was named the game's MVP.

The thing that people remember from the game is the pick-six (understandably so), but Manning played a very good game that day.  It was just the final of a number of crucial mistakes that the Colts made that added up to the Super Bowl loss.  The Garcon drop.  The lack of aggressiveness toward the end of the first half.  Hank Baskett dropping the onside kick.  Manning's interception.  It was a rough game for the Colts, and it was the last time that they would play on a big stage with Manning at quarterback.  The following season the Colts went 10-6 (thanks to another great season from Manning) but exited in the first round of the playoffs - the last game the great Peyton Manning would ever play as a Colt.

Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference page for Super Bowl XLIV.