In a Super Bowl characterized by play as sloppy as the weather, Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, and the Colts finally overcame their critics, emerging from the rain-soaked field with a 29-17 victory.
In a word, the game was ugly. The contest opened with a bang, as rookie phenom Devin Hester took the kickoff back for a touchdown. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there. Countless miscues, missed tackles, dropped balls, six fumbles, and eight turnovers plagued the rest of Super Bowl XLI. Fans, analysts and coaches were left wondering how two of the best teams in the league could produce such a mess of a game. The answer, quite simply, is Rex Grossman. Grossman fumbled twice and was responsible for three of the Bears turnovers. He made several horrendous decisions, tripped and fell on one of the most crucial plays of the game, and his inability to sustain a drive for a significant period of time made it impossible for his defense to get a breather. The Colts held the ball for nearly 17 more minutes than the Bears and outgained them by 165 yards. It is not as if Lovie Smith asked Grossman to win the game for him; all the Bears needed Grossman to do was to not mess it up. Clearly, this was too much to ask. Given the look on Brian Urlacher’s face after the game, I would be shocked if he doesn’t make absolutely sure, applying force if necessary, that Grossman does not return as the Bears starting quarterback next year.
However, in a game as poorly played as this, the Bears offense cannot shoulder all of the blame. The Colts simply dominated the Bears defense at the line of scrimmage and Peyton Manning took advantage of the Bears porous pass coverage. No longer will there be any remote comparisons between this overrated Chicago defense and the legendary ’85 team. You could have put Prince at defensive tackle and he probably would have done a better job than Tank Johnson. Speaking of Tank Johnson, the Colts put up almost as many yards (430) as rounds of ammunition found in Johnson’s house (550). The Bears safeties consistently played fifteen yards beyond the line of scrimmage throughout the game in fear of Peyton Manning’s arm, allowing plenty of running room for Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes. The Bears steadfastly held to their plan, not to allow Manning to beat them deep, so he beat them short. Manning felt virtually no pressure the whole game, as the Bears inexplicably kept rushing only four. He simply dropped back with plenty of time, looked deep and saw nothing. manning would then dump the ball off to a tight end or a running back who always found themselves wide open. It is outstanding to me how no adjustments were made throughout the game, as the Colts simply dumped these two yard outs time and time again. Manning showed a tendency to make poor decisions when blitzed and rushed out of the pocket during previous seasons in the playoffs. For some reason, Love Smith and the coaching staff could not put two and two together; perhaps Grossman’s incompetence even rubbed off on his coaching staff.
When the final whistle blew, we expected to see Manning hugging teammates, crying tears of happiness, and exuding pure jubilation, just as John Elway did when he won his first Super Bowl. Surprisingly, this is not what we got. With the monkey finally off his back and his critics silenced, Manning did not run wild on the field or hubristically tout himself as the greatest. He simply raised two fists in the air with a smug grin on his face as he strode to midfield, almost as if to hint this is just the beginning.