MIAMI - Peyton Manning? Intercepted. Brett Favre, too.
Louisiana native Tracy Porter finished the season by making two of the biggest interceptions in the history of the team he grew up rooting for: the New Orleans Saints.
Now they're the Super Bowl champion Saints, thanks in no small part to the second-year pro who grew up in Port Allen, just across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge.
His 74-yard touchdown on an interception of a pass by Manning gave the Saints an insurmountable two-touchdown lead late in the fourth quarter of New Orleans' 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.
In the NFC title game, his interception of Favre's pass stalled Minnesota's potential game-winning drive in the last minute of regulation. The Saints went on to beat the Vikings in overtime to earn their first Super Bowl berth in the club's 43-year history.
When asked how it felt to make a huge interception against a quarterback such as Manning in such a big game, Porter knew what to say.
"I got the same question when I picked off Brett Favre. Peyton, he's a phenomenal quarterback, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, such as the previous two quarterbacks we played in the playoffs," he said, also referring to Arizona's Kurt Warner.
As a kid, Porter watched the Saints every Sunday with family and friends. He remembers paper bags on the heads of embarrassed fans during the lean years.
"This team means more to the people of New Orleans than I can say any team in the NFL. I can say no one is behind their team as much as the people of New Orleans," Porter said. "They're just as much a part of this victory as we are."
Porter had four interceptions during the regular season. He returned one for a TD on the very same field in the Saints' 46-34 comeback victory over the Dolphins.
When Saints first-year defensive coordinator Gregg Williams saw Porter taking another one all the way back to all but wrap up New Orleans' first major professional sports title, he kept thinking back to his early impressions of the young cornerback during offseason workouts.
"When I first got there, everyone was high on him. But they said 'Gregg, he takes things too seriously. Gregg, he has a hard time forgetting plays.' So I used the whole spring and the whole training camp and he was my whipping dog," Williams recalled. "It took a long time to stop sticking his lip out because I was on him so hard. Once he figured out that I was giving him a lot of attention because I liked him, he started giving me some of that swagger back.
"You can't be afraid of making a play. He pulled the trigger. He made the play," Williams added.
Porter said it was a case of productive film study. He recognized the formation, with Austin Collie going in motion, and knew Manning would be looking for Reggie Wayne right around the needed distance for a first down.
"When I saw Austin Collie go in motion I said, 'Oh yeah, this is the route they've been running all year,' and yeah, I had it in my mind I was going to jump the route," Porter said. "It was just like I was watching it on film and I made the break on it and here comes the end zone."
Porter was drafted by the Saints in 2008 and earned a starting cornerback spot in his rookie season. But that year was cut short by a broken wrist in the first half of the season.
This season, Porter went down Nov. 15 with what was thought to be a season-ending knee injury at St. Louis.
"I was told that it was a severe knee injury and that I could be out for the year," Porter recalled. "During that time I was real down, thinking I wasn't going to come back - second year in a row - thinking maybe I was jinxed."
Further examinations revealed it was a severe sprain. His season wasn't over and he returned after missing five games.
Right before getting on the team bus to go to the Super Bowl, Porter sat in the Saints' downtown Miami hotel, getting his head shaved by his regular New Orleans barber, who'd traveled to Miami for the game.
Patches of hair left on Porter's mostly bald head included a rendering of the Louisiana Superdome, connected by a road to the Vince Lombardi Trophy, as well as "SB 44," a reference to the Saints' meeting with the Colts in the 44th Super Bowl.
As Porter explained the design, he added, "Now you can look at the Lombardi Trophy on the same road back to the Superdome."