22. Super Bowl XLIV, 2010: New Orleans 31—Indianapolis 17
The long-suffering Saints made their Super Bowl debut with a high-powered offense featuring Drew Brees. Peyton Manning made his second of four eventual appearances, as the playoff-tested Colts went off as five-point favorites in an intriguing matchup.
Competitiveness: 8 out of 10. For three quarters, momentum swung back and forth with the Colts taking a 10-0 lead early and holding a one-point lead late in the game. A Brees touchdown pass and late pick six from Manning proved ultimately decisive.
Star Power: 6 out of 10. Manning and Brees are first ballot Hall Of Famers. Pretty thin after that.
Controversy/Intrigue: 9 out of 10. A few years previous, it was not even clear that the Saints’ franchise would remain in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. The ascension of the perennial league doormat to champion status is a great NFL narrative. Trailing 10-6 at the half, Saints coach Sean Payton gambled on an onside kick to open the 3rd quarter, which they recovered. The ballsy move is thought by many to be the key moment in the game.
Aftermath: 8 out of 10. The win made national heroes of Brees and Payton—and changed the perception of the Saints franchise after decades of abysmal play. Manning’s failure to rally the Colts late reminded some of earlier criticisms of his post-season play. Though he would rebound in Denver, this was the beginning of the end of the Manning era in Indianapolis.
Aggregate Score: 31 out of 40.
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