NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Around the Super Bowl and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the game:
Wander the streets of New Orleans this week and you'd think the Saints are one of the teams playing in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Entire families are sporting Drew Brees jerseys. Women are wearing rhinestone-studded Saints T-shirts and fleur-de-lis earrings. Men are in Saints jerseys and sweatshirts.
Of course, fans in every host city show pride in their home team. But there's a special bond between the Saints and the people of New Orleans. While they're happy to welcome the Ravens and the 49ers, this city will always belong to the Saints.
—Nancy Armour — http://www.twitter.com/nrarmour
THE PISTOL, EXPLAINED
You'll hear about it from the first time 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stands behind center, and listen to it be endlessly dissected in the Super Bowl.
But just what is this pistol offense San Francisco is running?
Put simply, it's a variation of the shotgun, a formation that has been in the NFL for decades. Former Nevada coach Chris Ault invented it, and gave it the name because it reminded him of a shorter version of the shotgun.
In the pistol, the quarterback lines up 4-5 yards behind the center. Unlike the shotgun, the running backs line up behind the quarterback instead of next to him so they can be in motion when they get the ball and run north and south more easily.
The tweak that makes the pistol even more effective, though, is the read-option. This what Kaepernick runs so well, and what Baltimore has spent two weeks preparing to stop.
In the read-option, Kaepernick turns to his right and tucks the ball in the belly of his running back — all while keeping his eyes on the defense. Based on the first move the defensive end makes — either to the outside or toward the quarterback — Kaepernick will either leave the ball with the running back or pull it out and take off himself to the outside.
Defensive players say the move causes problems because it forces them to hesitate a split-second to see what Kaepernick does with the ball. Often, that is just enough time for running back Frank Gore to slash up the middle or for Kaepernick to take the ball around the right end down the field for a big gain.
— Tim Dahlberg — http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
GET HERE EARLY
Anyone wanting a cafe au lait or a beignet from New Orleans' most famous coffee shop better be prepared to wait.
Tables were filled, and lines were stretching down the sidewalk at Cafe Du Monde by midday Saturday.
— Nancy Armour — http://twitter.com/nrarmour
QUICKQUOTE: RAY LEWIS
There are many sides to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
Even he admits that the guy he professes to be most of the time — deeply religious, a caring mentor, a humble leader — is not the one you see when he puts on his helmet and pads.
"I turn into a different person on the field," Lewis said. "I am a totally different person off the field. But on the field, I'm driven to do whatever it takes for my teammates. There are so many of my teammates here today who I've honored and told them that I would do anything in my power so we can feel that confetti drop together, because that is the ultimate. For me being a leader of this team, I owe that to them."
— Paul Newberry — http://twitter.com/pnewberry1963
CULLIVER SENSITIVITY TRAINING
After playing in the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver is immediately starting sensitivity training.
The 24-year-old took a hit to his image this week after making anti-gay remarks to a comedian, saying he wouldn't welcome a gay player in the locker room.
Now, his public relations spokesman Theodore Palmer says Culliver will begin working with "The Trevor Project," an organization that provides crisis and suicide intervention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
Culliver will spend time volunteering at a crisis center in San Francisco, Palmer said.
Palmer says the group wants to be sure Culliver is genuine about his words.
"It's just an opportunity for him to learn about his comments and educate himself about the LGBT community, and grow," Palmer said. "It's the first step in learning about his words."
— Janie McCauley — http://twitter.com/JanieMcCAP
MCGRAW ROOTING FOR BLIND SIDE
Country music superstar Tim McGraw doesn't want to explicitly share who he's rooting for to win the Super Bowl. But he gave a pretty big hint.
"It would be nice to see Michael win and see that whole 'Blind Side' story come to completion," McGraw says.
He's referring to Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, whose life was the subject of the film "The Blind Side." It starred McGraw and Sandra Bullock, who won an Oscar for her role.
McGraw, whose new album, "Two Lanes of Freedom," comes out on Tuesday, was in New Orleans on Friday for a very early performance at the House of Blues broadcast live on ABC's "Good Morning America."
— John Carucci — http://twitter.com/jcarucci_ap