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Dungy's prediction no match for destiny

Drew Brees and the Saints proved all of their doubters wrong by winning the Super Bowl. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

MIAMI -- Tony Dungy wasn't the only one who thought the Indianapolis Colts would blow out the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.

"I did too," Colts tackle Ryan Diem said Sunday night.

The Saints' 31-17 victory proved quite a few people wrong, most notably Dungy, who should have known better than to suggest Peyton Manning would breeze through the Saints' defense on his way to a second Super Bowl title.

"I think they're going to be so far ahead," the former Colts coach had told the New York Times, "that people are going to say, 'Oh, ho-hum, he played a good game, they won by two scores, the Colts won their second championship.' "

The comments created a ripple, but Dungy mostly got a free pass while Gregg Williams, the Saints' less stately defensive coordinator, took heat for suggesting the New Orleans defense would rough up Manning with "remember-me" hits.

Dungy's prediction read more like something from Rex Ryan at an MMA event than anything befitting the man NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has anointed as league ambassador. The prediction was so strong, so unflinching, so seeming inconsistent with Dungy's usual form that I figured he had to be right. Certainly Dungy wouldn't speak out so strongly if the Saints were the better team.

"I don't think it's going to be close," Dungy had said.

The Colts were going to win in a blowout.

"A blowout?" Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "Well, it didn't happen."

The Saints needed overtime to beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship game even though Minnesota suffered from five turnovers, critical penalties and questionable coaching decisions. Logic said the Colts would never suffer so many mistakes. But logic would also fail to explain what the Saints were feeling. From their perspective, this was the only just outcome after the organization stuck it out in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Manning and the Colts were a great team, perhaps even the better team on paper, but the Saints felt they were playing for a greater purpose.

"They are really hard to prepare for," Saints linebacker Scott Fujita said of the Colts, "but the Saints were on a mission and for us it was about much more than just football -- much more than just football.

"I think you could see the stadium, we must have had Colts fans outnumbered six, seven to one. Throughout the city all week, the black and gold just poured into Miami to take over the city. I'm getting text messages all week from friends in the U.K., friends in Italy, saying the whole football world is behind us. This is bigger than just the game. The Saints are the world's team."

The Saints defied convention with an onside kick to open the second half. They went for it on fourth down when a field goal would have been the politically safe call. Cornerback Tracy Porter jumped the route for the interception he returned 74 yards for the clinching touchdown with 3:12 remaining.

We could view these high-stakes gambles as the Saints' acknowledgment that taking chances was their only hope against Manning, but that would be missing the mark. The Saints bet big on themselves and won.

"We have been the best team in the NFC," safety Roman Harper said. "We knew nobody was going to give it to us. We have to go out there and take it. Nobody picked us, nobody believed in us but us and ourselves and our locker room and our city and our families. We went out and proved everybody wrong today."

Starting with Tony Dungy.