INDIANAPOLIS — Colts fans were disappointed after the 31-17 loss to New Orleans on Sunday night, but some retained a soft spot for the Saints.
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Many Colts fans empathized with New Orleans because the city endured Hurricane Katrina and the franchise had never before been to a Super Bowl.
"They needed a morale boost, the people of that area," Colts fan Floyd Newson said.
"I'm disappointed that the Colts lost, but it's hard to hate the Saints," said Dan Barnett, an Indianapolis native who lives in Chicago.
Some fans in the state of Indiana cheered for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who played his college ball at Purdue University. Sentiment was divided near the West Lafayette, Ind. campus in the days leading up to the game.
Brees passed for 288 yards and two touchdowns and was named the game's MVP. Tim Berry, a Purdue graduate who watched the game at Jillian's in downtown Indianapolis, is a Colts fan who said he could live with Brees getting a ring.
"It's good to see Drew Brees win, but it would have been better to see Peyton Manning win."
Dion Ray, a Saints fan from Chicago, wore a black Brees jersey to the pro-Colts establishment.
"I like Drew Brees, and it was about time for the Saints," he said.
The atmosphere throughout Indianapolis was festive well before the game. Blue jerseys and shirts were the Sunday best for members of Circle City Church in northeast Indianapolis. Bars, especially those downtown, had large crowds.
Some fans appreciated the chance to cheer for the Colts in their second Super Bowl appearance in four years, considering that coach Jim Caldwell replaced Tony Dungy and longtime star receiver Marvin Harrison no longer is with the team.
"Going into the season, no one thought the Colts could get this far with all the changes they made," said Arlindo Chimbanda, who lives in Indianapolis.
The mood at Jillian's varied. When the Saints recovered an onside kick to start the second half, it was nearly silent.
The crowd got excited again when Joseph Addai scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter to put the Colts up 17-13.
The crowd buzzed as the Colts entered the fourth quarter up 17-16. So many times this season, Manning came through in the final 15 minutes.
This time, he threw an interception to former Indiana University player Tracy Porter, who returned it 74 yards for a touchdown with 3:12 to play. That touchdown put the Saints up 31-17 and sent some patrons to the exit and others into tears.
Colts fan Tony Joyner of Indianapolis couldn't believe Manning struggled with the game on the line.
"Man, I don't know. I do not know. Manning with the interception? But you've got to give it up to the Saints, they played good. If it ain't us, there's no other team I'd rather win than the Saints."
Colts fans had hoped to see Manning elevated into legendary status.
"I really think I would like to see Peyton Manning go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time," Cord Hale said before the game. "Rings do matter when you look back in history."
Some fans believe Manning will get another shot.
"I do hate that they lost, I really do," Joyner said. "But we will be back. Saints, I don't know about that, but we will be back."