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Saints march to Super Bowl

SUPER BOWL XLIV: New Orleans Saints v Indianapolis Colts
Venue: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Date: Sunday 7 February Kick-off: 2325 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One and the BBC Sport website from 2255, listen live on BBC 5 live sports extra from 2100 (UK only)

Drew Brees in the Super Bowl media scrum
Brees has become a figurehead for the Saints on and off the field

By Haydn Parry
BBC Radio 5 live at the Super Bowl

The New Orleans Saints feel they have a date with destiny this Sunday, when they take on the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami.

Their quarterback Drew Brees articulated the mood of the entire franchise when he said: "It means so much.

"For so many fans, just to have waited so long through so many tough times to this point, and what people went through post-Katrina, it's so much more than just a game to us.

"It's a feeling that we have an opportunity to give them so much hope, lift their spirits and give them what they deserve."

We feel like we are playing for so much more than just to win a game for our organisation or team, we're playing for an entire city and region

Drew Brees

The Saints' first ever appearance in the NFL's showpiece final comes just four-and-a-half years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana coastline, taking more than 1,800 lives as floodwater breached the city's inadequate levees.

Their home stadium, the Superdome, became a temporary refuge for thousands of inhabitants, and a symbol of the city's ruin.

And the players themselves became refugees for the subsequent season, playing "home" games as far afield as New York, Baton Rouge and San Antonio, Texas.

Since the Saints' return to New Orleans for the 2006 season, the bond with their citizens appears to have got stronger.

Brees joined the team from San Diego in the summer of 2006 and quickly became an emotional leader on and off the field.

"We feel like we are playing for so much more than just to win a game for our organisation or team, we're playing for an entire city and region," he said.

The hurrican-damaged Superdome
The Saints' damaged home stadium was used to house refugees from Katrina

"And you could say for an entire country because there are still so many New Orleans natives who had to evacuate after Katrina, who have not been able to move back yet.

"We know we have fans across the country who are pulling for us and rooting for us, fans who will come back eventually to New Orleans but are just waiting for the right time.

"Whatever we can do to give them hope and raise their spirits, that's what we want to do."

The road from Katrina to Miami has not been smooth - they won just three of their 16 games during that nomadic 2005 season.

NEIL REYNOLDS' NFL BLOG

However, under the guidance of young head coach Sean Payton, arguably the best team in the franchise's entire history has emerged and offered a source of comfort to a city that to this day has still not totally recovered from the hurricane.

"I think the city is tied pretty closely to the team," Payton said this week. "Logistically, you're less insulated than you are in some other cities in regard to where you live. I think that's part of it.

"I think the fanbase has been passionate about this team. After Katrina and the devastation, for them to be able to hang their hat on one common, consistent thing and for that product to be successful was very important."

If the Saints are to win their first Super Bowl, New Orleans must overcome a team led by one of its native sons.

Behind the scenes at Super Bowl's Radio Row

Peyton Manning, the Colts' quarterback and star player, was born in New Orleans and grew up supporting the Saints - not least because his father Archie was the team's quarterback in the franchise's lean early years of 1971 to 1982.

So had Peyton ever dreamt of an outcome such as this, playing the Saints in the Super Bowl?

"I appreciate the people of New Orleans supporting me throughout my career. It's my hometown," he said.

"But I understand this game New Orleans are Saints fans and I am fine with that."

Garcon
Garcon faced the media wearing a Haitian flag

Resplendent in their royal blue jerseys, and favoured by a small margin, the Indianapolis players exuded a calm air and sense of purpose as they spoke to the world's press on Tuesday.

The Colts have produced an exciting new threat this season in the form of Pierre Garcon.

The young wide receiver is of Haitian descent and chose to address the media wearing a bandana in the red and blue flag of the earthquake-hit Caribbean island.

Just as the Saints feel the need to give something back to their city, so Garcon is also a man on a mission, representing a beleaguered country.

"I'm just trying to do something positive for our community," he said.

"There are a lot of bad aspects with being Haitian and so I'm just trying to do something positive and let people know we can make it and be anybody we want to be.

"I'm trying to give them a little hope and trying to help as much as I can."



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see also
Saints upset Colts in Super Bowl
08 Feb 10 |  American Football
Saints and Colts reach Super Bowl
25 Jan 10 |  American Football
Saints targeting Superdome return
31 Dec 05 |  American Football
NFL side counts cost of hurricane
01 Sep 05 |  US Sport
'Dozens killed' in US hurricane
30 Aug 05 |  Americas
NFL fixtures
05 Jan 08 |  American Football
NFL results
26 Oct 07 |  American Football
NFL standings
26 Oct 07 |  American Football
NFL in a nutshell
19 Oct 05 |  American Football
American Football on the BBC
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