New Orleans fans back on Archie Manning’s side

Archie Manning is too classy to delve into the details.

If asked, however, he’ll confirm that a handful of fellow New Orleanians lobbed some ugly remarks at him and his wife, Olivia, the last time their son Peyton played for an NFL championship: Super Bowl XLIV, which he lost to the Saints, whom Archie quarterbacked for 134 games from 1971-82.

“Sometimes people say things without thinking,” the Manning family patriarch said Tuesday, exactly 43 years after the Saints drafted him second overall. “That was really no time for me and Olivia to be ultra-sensitive. The best thing we could do was stay out of the way and not get our feelings hurt.”

And that’s why Archie much prefers things to be the way they are for Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday: Peyton’s hometown rooting for him as he and the Denver Broncos try to take down the Seattle Seahawks, a team that’s caused lots of heartache for the Saints these past few years.

“It makes us feel good most Saints fans are pulling for the Broncos,” Archie Manning said. Chuckling, he added: “I haven’t found too many that are big fans of the Seahawks.”

Fortunately for Manning, the norm has been for the New Orleans area to support Peyton or Eli — alums of Isidore Newman School — whenever they’ve made the NFL title game. That was the case when Eli led the Giants to victories over the Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI; and that’s how it was in Super Bowl XLI when Peyton and the Colts bested the Bears, who had beaten the Saints in the NFC Championship Game two weeks earlier.

The exception was Super Bowl XLIV, in which Peyton and the Colts were awarded the difficult task of trying to deny New Orleans its sweetest dream: a world championship, less than five years after weathering the devastation of Katrina.

“It’s not who Peyton wanted to play,” said Archie, who established team records in essentially every major passing category for the Saints but never enjoyed a winning season with the organization. “But you play your cards how they’re dealt. It was hard on everybody.”

No one who was in New Orleans at the time has forgotten the details of that game. The Saints wrapped up a 31-17 win after Peyton threw a fourth-quarter interception to cornerback Tracy Porter at the Colts’ 26. Porter ran it back for a score, and the Saints’ Will Smith shoved Peyton onto his rear end during the return.

“It was a great win for the Saints,” said Archie, who rankled the nerves of some of his old team’s most hardcore, less-than-reasonable fans by publicly declaring — without hesitation — that he was in his son’s corner for the game. “It was a great day for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.”

It’s four years later, and Peyton’s virtually the unanimous good guy in and around New Orleans again.

The Seahawks carry a hefty share of the responsibility for that.

It started with the 2010 Seattle squad that needed only a 7-9 record to win its division and host a wild-card game against an 11-5 Saints team that finished second in the NFC South. It continued this season when the Saints lost at Seattle on Dec. 2 in the regular season, then lost again in the divisional playoffs Jan. 11.

Coached by Pete Carroll, Seattle won all three showdowns, outscoring New Orleans 98-58. Marshawn Lynch put up a total of 316 yards rushing and three touchdowns, inspiring a ruckus at CenturyLink Field that both registered readings on seismic equipment and annoyed crestfallen Saints fans to no end.

That all explains why, when Seattle advanced to face Denver in the Super Bowl, the sentiment from New Orleans’ social media users was largely: Smoke ’em, Peyton.

It won’t be at all easy. Seattle’s defense is No. 1, and it is top-ranked against the pass.

Yet if anyone can decipher that defense, Peyton can. He broke NFL records this season — his second in Denver — by throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards. He’s favored to win an unprecedented fifth league MVP honor on Saturday, and he’s got a viable shot at becoming the first-ever starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different franchises.

“It’s historically as hard as it gets,” Carroll said in response to a question about slowing Peyton down. “It can’t get any tougher.”

Peyton told reporters about clashing with Seattle: “We couldn’t be more excited. I know how hard it is to get here. I know how much time and sacrifice our team has made in order to have this opportunity to play in this game.

“They have an excellent team. I think you use every bit of this time to try to get familiar with them from what you see on film.”

Peyton set his yardage mark at the expense of one posted in 2011 by Saints quarterback and former Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. It’s likely Archie hasn’t encountered any people who object to that.

“I know how passionate Saints fans are. ... I know how much people love our team here,” Archie Manning said. “The fact that we’ve lost games to the Seahawks (recently) — there’s good Broncos support in this area.”