MIAMI - The can't-miss Colts got it all wrong in the Super Bowl.
They dropped passes. They missed tackles. They couldn't recover an onside kick. Even the impeccable Peyton Manning made a costly mistake.
Indianapolis was full of flaws and it showed.
"I don't know man, they had a good scheme, they did a good job using it tonight and they're celebrating," receiver Reggie Wayne said.
The bigger problem was that nobody in a blue uniform played like themselves.
All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney was effective rushing Drew Brees early, but struggled in the second half when his sore right ankle stiffened up. Indy's other pass rushing end, Robert Mathis, was mostly an afterthought.
The receivers struggled, too. Wayne caught five passes for 46 yards. Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie each dropped passes that would have kept drives going, and Manning's late interception was returned 74 yards for the game-sealing score.
Given those storylines, the Saints' 31-17 upset was as predictable as it seemed improbable just hours earlier.
"I can't say we ever saw that coming at all," center Jeff Saturday said. "They just outplayed us."
It was the first time all season Indy could say that.
After establishing a new NFL record for consecutive regular-season wins (23), setting the league record for most victories in a decade (115) and trading a shot at 16-0 to win a second Lombardi Trophy in four years, the Colts were left with this: Wait till next year.
"The main thing is as a defense we didn't stand up," cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. "We didn't take advantage of our opportunity."
The collapse was a complete surprise, too.
Manning the model of consistency was outplayed by Brees. Manning went 31 of 45 for 333 yards with one TD, one interception and a quarterback rating of 88.5. Brees finished 32 of 39 for 288 yards with two TDs and a much better rating of 114.5.
When the Saints needed scores in the second half, Brees delivered. Manning did not, and the Colts couldn't protect an early 10-0 lead.
Who would have expected that?
Freeney, playing on a torn ligament in his right ankle, provided the only consistent pass rush. The other Colts defenders repeatedly missed tackles. New Orleans took advantage by driving for scores.
"What we did do well was take away the big plays," defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "What we didn't do well was wrapping up."
But the biggest miscue came on special teams.
Hank Baskett had a chance to make the Saints pay a price for opening the second half with a surprise onside kick, trailing 10-6. The little-used receiver got his hands on the ball, but let it bounce away and New Orleans recovered to set up a TD drive at their own 40.
Baskett's wife, Kendra Wilkinson, was so upset she walked to the back of her suite. Baskett didn't take questions after the game.
Teammates, however, called it the turning point.
"As the special teams captain, I felt like we didn't do the little things right," safety Melvin Bullitt said. "If we do, we're getting the ball there at the (Saints') 40 and it might have been a totally different game."
But the way Indy played, it might not have mattered.
After New Orleans kicked its first field goal early in the second quarter, Garcon dropped a third-down pass that hit him in the shoulder. Indy ran only six plays in the period and didn't pick up a first down.
There was more of the same in the second half.
Collie was stopped for a 3-yard loss on second-and-8, a play Manning has used to pick up first downs all season. Manning came right back to Collie, who couldn't catch a third-down pass.
On Indy's next series, Tracy Porter took Manning's interception to the end zone and the perfect season came to an imperfect end.
"You never know how it's going to turn out," said Manning, the Super Bowl MVP three years ago in Miami. "The Colts started hot, the Saints came back. We just didn't play well enough at certain times and in certain phases. The Saints deserved to win."
Colts' supporting cast falls short in Super Bowl