The celebration of Mardi Gras has begun earlier than usual, as the party kicked off in the streets of New Orleans February 7 after the Saints claimed their first NFL championship in franchise history with a 31-17 victory against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, Fla.

The game was tightly contested for three and a half quarters, but the Saints played nearly flawlessly in the final minutes to claim the Lombardi trophy. Here’s how the game played out:

New Orleans claimed its championship throne when…
Saints cornerback Tracy Porter covered Colts receiver Reggie Wayne perfectly and intercepted a pass by Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, returning it 74 yards for a touchdown to give New Orleans a 31-17 lead with just over three minutes left in the game. The Colts didn’t have enough time to overcome the two-score deficit, giving the Saints their first Super Bowl victory.

Outstanding Player(s) of the Game:
Saints all-pro quarterback Drew Brees played mistake-free football, completing 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Colts’ defensive unit covered deep to keep Brees from throwing the long ball, and he remained patient and didn’t force passes into the deep coverage. He was named Super Bowl MVP for his outstanding performance.

Marques Colston led the Saints with seven catches for 83 yards, while teammate Jonathan Vilma led with seven solo tackles. Porter had four tackles to go with his game-clinching interception returned for a touchdown.

More Game Notes:
New Orleans faced an early 10-0 deficit, but was able to rally after a few offensive adjustments. The Saints tried to pound Indy early with their running game without success, but later adjusted to an efficient quick, short-pass attack to move the ball downfield. Brees then warmed up, hitting eight different receivers and breaking down the Colts’ zone coverage. This adjustment by Saints coach Sean Payton may have been the biggest difference-maker of the game.

Colts MVP quarterback Peyton Manning started the game well, and put up decent stats, completing 31 of 45 passes for 333 yards and a touchdown. But Manning’s interception simply came at the wrong moment, late in the game. Manning is now 1-1 in two Super Bowl appearances.

There were two players who are alums of historically Black universities who started the Super Bowl, but unfortunately, they were both on the losing team. Colts starting safety Antoine Bethea is alum of Howard University, while starting return specialist Chad Simpson attended Morgan State University.

Saints defensive back Usama Young is a Maryland native, having graduated from Largo High School of Prince George’s County.

Drew Brees on the Saints winning their first Super Bowl:
“Four years ago, who ever thought this would be happening when 85 percent of the city was underwater?” Brees said. “Most people left not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back, or if the organization would ever come back. We just all looked at one another and said, ‘We are going to rebuild together. We are going to lean on each other.’ This is the culmination in all that belief. We just believed in ourselves, and we knew that we had an entire city and maybe an entire country behind us.”