Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl XLI: Colts 29, Bears 17

An awful new version of the Manning Face has appeared- the smug "I've got one now, too" look

First the Gators win the BCS title, then the Pats lose to the Colts in the AFC title game, and now the Colts are the Super Bowl champs.

My Personal Sports Season is starting out very shitty.

Yes the Indianapolis Colts did what many people expected them to do Sunday night in a dreary downpour in Miami, and because of it us Pats fans will have to endure a full year of stuff like this, and hearing that now Peyton Manning only trails Brady by 2 rings. And by only 1 SB MVP award.

That's right his Royal Whineness won the MVP with his 25-38, 247 yards, 1 touchdown outing. Like they were going to give it to anyone else if the Colts won. The only way he wasn't getting that trophy was if he pulled a Grossman.

Of course Grossman was the focal point of the loss for Chicago. I know I said it was the Year of the Gator but neither that kind of karma nor the supernatural spurring of Chicago Bob could overcome the condition hereby known as Gross-mania. By definition Gross-mania is the propensity to make incredibly stupid plays at the absolute worst time of a game, including flinging the pigskin down field to nobody in particular, coupled with a high susceptibility to fumbling, tripping, and generally looking like a 14-year-old pre-pubescent doofus.

Grossman was guilty of all of the above in a game he'd love to forget, along with all the other ones he's had this season; he was 20-28 for 165 yards (take away the 5-5 for 54 yards on the final, meaningless drive and he was a horrid 15-23 for 111 yards) with 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 2 fumbles (1 lost), 1 trip/sack, num-erous mishandled exchanges, ensuring a lifetime of shame and embarrassment. It was the kind of game that has caused the rabid Bears fans to call for Lovie Smith to replace him with veteran Brian Griese for the past 3 months.

I know I named Grossman as one of the reasons why the Bears would win, but that was a tongue-in-cheek shot at the Gators recent run of success. No one in their right mind would never choose Grossman over Manning in a game that mattered. Or a game that didn't. Even my son said "why did you pick the Bears, Dad, you hate Grossman?" Ah the wisdom of youth.

: IND- 430 CHI- 265
Pass Yds: IND-239 CHI-154
Rush Yds: IND- 191 CHI-111
1st Downs: IND- 24 CHI-11
Tot. Plays: IND-81 CHI-48
T.O.P.: IND- 38:04 CHI-21:56
T.O.s: IND-3 CHI-5

Those stats tell the whole story as to why the Colts won this game and the Bears were less impressive than musical geezers Prince & Billy Joel combined. Indy ran roughshod all over the vaunted Bears defense, crrushing Urlacher & his defensive cohorts for nearly 200 yards on the ground, and when have you ever seen a team win a Super Bowl with 5 turnovers?

It's ironic (i.e. intentional) that I mentioned those other games in the opening because this Super Bowl bore a bit of a resemblance to both the BCS title game and the AFC Championship game.

When Devin Hester returned the opening kick of the game for a 92-yard touchdown (predicted by yours truly) to give the Bears a 7-0 lead just :14 into the game it was an eerie parallel to Tedd Ginn Jr's 93-yard opening kickoff return for Ohio State :16 into that title game. Just as in that contest the boost that scoring on the very first play of the game provides was a distant, and rare good, memory for the team that benefited from it.

And much like in the AFC title game against the Pats Indy looked very bad early, falling into a 14-6 hole after one quarter, only to come roaring back and swing the balance of the game in their favor by the end.

The first quarter alone packed enough action to satisfy a John Woo fan: 3 touchdowns, 3 fumbles, 1 interception, 1 missed PAT, and numerous slips & bobbles due to the soggy conditions. One wacky exchange saw the teams fumble on successive possessions, the first of two such occurrences in this miserably muddy match.

By the second quarter Manning & Co. settled in and went to work on Chicago's defense. Steady during the regular season the depleted unit had been manhandled pretty effectively in the postseason, and that trend continued tonight. Indy mounted back-to-back scoring drives, one an 8-play, 47-yarder that culminated in a 29-yard field goal by Vinateri, the other a 7-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Dominick Rhodes (21 carries, 113 yards, TD) for Indy's first lead of the game, 16-14.

For Chicago it was all downhill from there.

The Bears went 3 & out and Manning appeared to be driving for a back breaking score before the half. But Brendan Fletcher fumbled at the Bears 37 and Chicago had new life. That life lasted approximately :07 seconds as Rex the Fumble Dog botched the snap and dropped the ball in Indy's lap. Luckily for Rexie Urlacher made a huge stop on Joseph Addai on 3rd & 2 from the 17 and then my hex came through big time as Mr. Automatic, Vinateri, missed a 36-yard field goal as the half expired, and Chicago went into the break trailing by just 2 points despite the staggering advantage Indy held in most categories:

Yards: IND- 257 CHI-95
Pass Yds: IND-193 CHI-32
Rush Yds: IND-64 CHI-63
Plays: IND- 46 CHI-19
T.O.P: IND- 19:56 CHI- 10:04
T.O.s: IND-3 CHI-3

Unfortunately for Chicago those numbers would only get uglier by the time it was all over. How bad? From the time Indy mounted that drive that ended the first half until the time Chicago got another offensive snap was 56 minutes of actual real time. That's right the Bears went nearly a full hour during the game without touching the ball. That's because after Prince staged a flamboyant-yet-subdued halftime show (more on that later) Indy took the second half kickoff and embarked on a punishing 13-play, 56-yard drive that ate up half of the 3rd quarter, and although they had to settle for another Vinateri field goal, the psychological damage had already been inflicted.

As the minutes ticked by it became more and more apparent that Chicago's soggy defense could not stop the Indy offense, and with Chicago's offense doing its best impersonation of the Keystone Cops the game was over before it was officially over.

The unofficial ending came 3:00 into the 4th quarter after the teams had traded field goals to make the score 22-17 heading into the final frame. That's when a severe case of Gross-mania overtook Rexie, and he threw an incomprehensibly bad pass intended for Muhammad that was intercepted by Kelvin Who? Hayden for a game-clinching 56-yard touchdown that sealed Manning's, as well as Grossman's, legacy.

It was about as bad as a quarterback can play in the ultimate game, and the funny thing is that nobody is the least bit surprised that it happened. All season long Lovie defiantly stood by his man as people far & wide could see that this kid has a serious case of the jitters, can't think or perform under pressure, and would never be able to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory.

They used to say the same thing about Manning & Dungy.

No one can say that anymore.

The Colts can hold their heads up high because they finally did what they needed to do in order to get the respect and admiration that winning the Bowl brings. The much-maligned defense came up huge in the postseason, allowing only 16.5 points per game and holding opponents to just 83 yards rushing per game after allowing a league-low 173 yards on the ground per game during the regular season. Manning came up huge in the biggest post-season of his life, guiding the team to score after score in the last two games and learning that the game is won by both sides of the team not just the offense. And Tony Dungy can finally stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Chucky Gruden as Super Bowl winning coaches.

And he can be proud of the fact that he did it his way.

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