Tracy Porter Delivers Play of a Lifetime
MIAMI - A Hoosier from Louisiana did it for the Who Dats.
Indianapolis quarterback and New Orleans native Peyton Manning did not get sacked Sunday night nor was he hit very much in the Super Bowl, but he will always remember an Indiana cornerback from Port Allen, La., named Tracy Porter.
Porter delivered the remember-me shot heard around the Who Dat world when he stepped in front of Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne - another New Orleans native - to intercept a Manning pass and race 74 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints their first Super Bowl title in their first try - 31-17 over the Colts.
Manning, the highest rated quarterback in the fourth quarter this season with seven come-from-behind wins in the last stanza, was on his way to tying the game before just his second interception of the postseason. Porter's touchdown put the Saints up 31-17 with 3:12 to play and virtually ended it.
"He made a great break on the ball," Manning said. "I'm sorry for our fans that I wasn't able to get it done today. I understand how excited the city of New Orleans is going to be."
With Bourbon Street blanketed in black and gold, the traveling Who Dats took over Sun Life Stadium, which is on its eighth name and second in just a few weeks. It might be time for No. 9 at least for a night. Call it Who Dat Way.
The Saints beat the Miami Dolphins 44-36 here in October when it was Land Shark Stadium after trailing 24-3. Porter returned an interception 54 yards to put the Land Shark on ice in that one. In this one, he put the fun in Sun Life. Porter danced and jumped around the Saints fans who found their way on the field.
"Words can't describe how much this means for New Orleans," Porter said. "I'm a Louisiana native, and this is real big. It means so much. We know the people of New Orleans, the people of Louisiana period - they're behind this team. This team, I have to say this team means more to the people of New Orleans than I can say any team in the NFL."
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams asked for "remember-me" shots on Manning from his defensive linemen and linebackers, but instead he got what the Saints really are. They're not dirty, but they do like to steal.
Porter's touchdown return was the Saints' 10th defensive touchdown of the season - most in the NFL. Manning and the Colts only turned it over once, and Porter made it count.
"It was a close game in the fourth quarter, and we had to be who we are. We get turnovers," said Williams, who in one season turned around one of the league's weakest defenses into its most daring.
"If you're afraid to make quick decisions and take chances in the National Football League, you're not going to be around for long," he said.
Williams blitzed his linebackers on the play, and Manning made the wrong quick decision. Wayne also stopped on his route a little too long.
"As soon as Tracy saw him sit down, he broke for the ball because he knew Peyton was going that way," Williams said.
"I saw him do that, and I jumped the route, and the ball came right into my hands," Porter said. "It was great film study. The coaching staff did a great job of preparing us for that route. When I saw my blockers in front of me and only Peyton and the offensive linemen left, I cut back and ran it in."
And he knew it was over.
"Going up two scores knowing the type of defense we have and the type of clock control offense we have, it was real big," Porter said.
Manning drove Indianapolis down one more time and reached the Saints' 3-yard line with time running out, but he could not punch it in.
The final seconds ticked off. Black and gold descended onto the field. Bourbon Street filled back up.
"Now the city of New Orleans can exhale a little bit," tailback Reggie Bush said. "This city needed it. A lot of cities really enjoyed their Super Bowls, but this city needed it for all it's been through with Hurricane Katrina. We did it. It's just unbelievable."
Exhale is one option, but Saints linebacker Scott Fujita had another option.
"I think I'm going to be drunk for about 30 days," he said.
Tight end Jeremy Shockey, a Miami native, had another idea.
"I'm single," he said. "Wink, wink."