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Then, the team that spent a year on the road after Katrina pummeled its city and became a rallying cry for a still-fledgling rebirth, won the toss and drove into Vikings territory to set up Garrett Hartley's 40-yard field goal. The kick sent a celebrating crowd pouring out onto Bourbon Street for a party sure to last through the night.
The Colts' victory wasn't nearly as dramatic, and the revelry in a city known for fast cars and sleepy nightlife wasn't nearly as raucous. Then again, this is a group that has come to expect success since Archie's boy arrived, reaching the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.
"When (Manning) goes up against the best, he takes his game to another level," Colts rookie coach Jim Caldwell said. "I think that's something we've kind of grown accustomed to around here."
Indy closed out the 2006 season with a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears, making Tony Dungy the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl. Now, Caldwell has a shot as being the third black coach in four years to take the title, and just the third first-year coach to win it all.
Not that he's looking for any extra attention. That's something he's gone to great lengths to avoid since taking over as Dungy's anointed successor, his most debated move coming when he pulled the starters in the next-to-last game to ruin a 14-0 team's shot at perfection.
This is perfect enough.
"I've never needed anybody to tell me I've done a good job," Caldwell said. "The great thing about this league? We've got a great barometer that tells you what kind of job that you've done, and that's that won-lost record."
So, the Colts are headed back to the big game, to face the team that hails from the city where Manning was born, the fleur-de-lis-clad guys he cheered for as a child.
Who dat he's got to beat to win another ring? Yep, it's his daddy's team.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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