- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Three things to know about the Super Bowl matchup between the Saints and Colts.
1. Two Big Dogs, no big underdog. Looking for Cinderella? The Colts were 14-0 this year and are led by four-time MVP Peyton Manning. Because of their history, the Saints will likely be cast in the underdog role, but Indianapolis isn’t going to buy it. Like Indianapolis, New Orleans came into the playoffs as a No. 1 seed and won two home games to qualify for the Super Bowl.
But the Saints, known as lovable losers for so long, are the fresh story. A city, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, gets a huge boost from the team’s first trip to the title game. Might the Saints be in position to be overwhelmed by the experience while the Colts, who won the game just four years ago, benefit from the experience?
2. Hey kids, do you like the passing game? The Colts (second in NFL) and Saints (fourth) live by the pass. They’re centered on top-flight quarterbacks. That will make for a lot of prognostications about an aerial assault and a big shootout in Miami.
Trouble is, it’s pigeonholing either club to suggest it’s all about Peyton Manning or Drew Brees.
The Saints are a balanced offense, with a run game that was sixth in the league keyed by Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. The Colts have a stingy scoring defense that’s allowed only 18.2 points a game and limited opponents in the regular season to seven passing plays of 30 yards or more.
Turnovers, always a key, are a New Orleans forte. The Saints were third in the NFL with a plus-11 differential, while Indy was plus-two.
3. Manning against the team of his youth. Manning is from New Orleans, where his dad, Archie, starred for the Saints. Cooper Manning, Peyton’s older brother, admitted Sunday it’d be awkward for him and some of the family, but they looked forward to sorting through it all.
The Colts are 5-5 all time against New Orleans. Manning lost his first two games to his hometown team, but has won the last two by scores of 55-21 in 2003 and 41-10 in 2007.
The Colts are also 2-1 all-time in Super Bowls in Miami, where they’ve played all three times they’ve advanced. Baltimore lost Super Bowl III to the Jets and won Super Bowl V over Dallas in south Florida. The Indianapolis Colts beat Chicago in Miami in Super Bowl XLI.