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The underdogs responded with a 14-point victory.
What might they have done in the other nine Super Bowls of the decade?
WhatIfSports.com set out to find the champion of all champions for the first 10 years of the new millennium, pitting each Super Bowl champion against every other 10,001 times. When all was said and done, it was the final champion of the decade that beat out all the rest.
Two months ago, few probably would have argued with the Saints ending up as the Team of the Decade. They were 13-0 and making a run at the first 19-0 season in NFL history behind an MVP-caliber season from Brees.
A little over one month later many questioned whether New Orleans' defense could stop the likes of Manning. In the end, the defense was good enough, even making the biggest play of the game, and in the battle against all other Super Bowl champions since the turn of the century, the Saints follow suit.
Among the 10 teams, the Saints gave up the fourth most points per game. The other three giving up the most points -- the 2006 Colts, 2007 Giants and 2001 Patriots -- finished in the bottom three slots and only the Colts finished within a touchdown when it comes to points scored per game.
Behind Brees' arm, Reggie Bush's big-play prowess and their running back by committee, the Saints scored nearly 30 points per game against the other Super Bowl champions.
And they beat those champions 63.4% of the time, edging the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the Team of the Decade.
The Buccaneers' second-place finish might be a bigger surprise than this year's Saints. One of the seemingly more forgettable champions of the decade (Try naming the starting QB and top running back and receiver from that Bucs team) misses out on donning the Champion of Champions crown by just 0.3%.
But the mediocre offense (Brad Johnson, Michael Pittman and Keyshawn Johnson, by the way) were offset by perhaps the best defense of the decade. And the Bucs gave up just 18.5 points per game against the other champions -- one of two teams to give up less than 20 -- to finish as the runner up.
The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, the only other team to give up less than 20 points per game (19.5), finished third -- two spots ahead of the other Super Bowl-champion Steelers -- winning 61.9% of the time.
What about the team that beat what was nearly the greatest team of all time?
The 2007 New England Patriots were a Super Bowl away from the first 19-0 season in NFL history but the New York Giants sprung the upset. But against all other champions of the decade, the Giants come in ninth.
And with that Patriots team out of the way -- hey, if they couldn't win the biggest game of the year, how could they be the best team of the decade? -- the door opened for the Saints and their offense to march (pun intended) right through.
Super Bowl Champs of the Decade
|Team||Win%||Avg PPG||Avg PPA|
|1||2009 New Orleans Saints||63.4||29.2||24.6|
|2||2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers||63/0||22.5||18.5|
|3||2005 Pittsburgh Steelers||61.9||22.8||19.5|
|4||2004 New England Patriots||52.1||24.1||23.0|
|5||2008 Pittsburgh Steelers||50.7||19.8||19.7|
|6||2000 Baltimore Ravens||50.4||20.1||20.2|
|7||2003 New England Patriots||47.0||20.5||21.1|
|8||2006 Indianapolis Colts||44.1||27.0||28.7|
|9||2007 New York Giants||33.9||20.3||25.1|
|10||2001 New England Patriots||33.4||19.0||24.7|
THE NOT TOP TEAM OF THE DECADE
For every Super Bowl winner of the decade, there was another team that finished No. 1 -- in the top spot of the NFL draft, that is.
After coming up with the best of the best, the WhatIfSports.com computers took on the task of coming up with the worst of the worst.
Not surprisingly, the team that couldn't beat anyone in its regular season struggled to beat even the worst teams of every other year in the decade as the 2008 Detroit Lions "won" the title of the Worst Team of the Decade, beating all other cellar-dwellars just 31.8% of the time.
Sporting the worst defense in the league in 2008 and an offense that barely ranked any higher, the Lions set an NFL record with their 0-16 season. Against the other worst teams of the decade, they scored more than 22 points per game, but gave up an average of four touchdowns, the highest points per game allowed by any team in the race, to win Worst Team by nearly 5%.
This season's St. Louis Rams -- who gave up the second-most points of the 10 teams in this study -- finished second.
The best of the worst? How about the 2003 San Diego Chargers.
The Bolts went 4-12 that season, but thanks to LaDainian Tomlinson, beat all of the other bottom-feeders more than 63% of the time.
There was a time where the Saints probably could have been a stiff challenger for the title of Worst Team.
Instead, the franchise's only title team just earned another honor -- the top team of the first decade of the 21st century.
Worst Teams of the Decade
|Team||Win%||Avg PPG||Avg PPA|
|1||2008 Detroit Lions||31.8||22.4||28.5|
|2||2009 St. Louis Rams||36.6||21.2||26.2|
|3||2005 Houston Texans||42.9||22.0||23.9|
|4||2000 San Diego Chargers||46.6||20.7||22.1|
|5||2006 Oakland Raiders||50.2||21.1||21.1|
|6||2001 Carolina Panthers||52.2||24.1||23.5|
|7||2004 San Francisco 49ers||55.0||24.8||23.2|
|8||2002 Cincinnati Bengals||60.4||26.1||22.5|
|9||2007 Miami Dolphins||61.2||26.3||22.5|
|10||2003 San Diego Chargers||63.3||27.3||22.7|
Could one of the worst teams of the decade beat one of the best? Using Whatifsports.com's football simulation engine, you can check out the results yourself with our NFL SimMatchup tool.
If you have any questions, comments or just want to talk sports shoot us an email at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!