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Super Bowl Preview XLI
TIM LAYDEN
February 05, 2007
The matchup in Miami will hinge on a line-of-scrimmage mind game. Can Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher outsmart Colts quarterback Peyton Manning for football's ultimate prize?
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February 05, 2007

Super Bowl Preview Xli

The matchup in Miami will hinge on a line-of-scrimmage mind game. Can Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher outsmart Colts quarterback Peyton Manning for football's ultimate prize?

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They will match wits from the instant the referee spots the ball.

PLAY CLOCK :30

Sometimes the Colts will huddle, sometimes not. In either case offensive coordinator Tom Moore dictates instructions into Manning's helmet by radio. Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, in a box above the field, calls the formation into the headset of linebackers coach Bob Babich on the sideline. Babich uses hand signals to relay the call to Urlacher. "They always take too long," says Urlacher, laughing. "I'm on the field, yelling at Coach Babich, 'What's the call!'"

Once the teams come to the line, the complexity lies more in the guessing game--the last-second adjustments and counters--than in the multiplicity of formations. The Colts will line up with Manning in shotgun or under center, and either Joseph Addai or Dominic Rhodes in the backfield. There will be three or four wideouts. The Bears will usually start in their 4--3, deploying two safeties deep in a Cover Two look. "Neither the Bears' defense or the Colts' offense is real complicated," says quarterback Drew Brees, whose New Orleans Saints lost to Chicago 39--14 in the NFC Championship Game. "They don't run a lot of formations. But they both have a lot of confidence in what they do."

PLAY CLOCK :15

Manning begins a series of movements that are now familiar to even the most casual fan: pointing out the safeties, pumping his right leg, leaning over and shouting to the offensive linemen. What is he doing? Sometimes he's calling the play. Sometimes he's changing it. "Sometimes," says Urlacher, "he's just screwing around with us."

Meanwhile, Urlacher often jumps into the A gap, right over the center. "That's so he can listen to the quarterback and make you think he's going to blitz," explains Brees.

Hasselbeck says, "He leans in so he's right in your face, and you start to audible and then he starts to audible, except you're not really sure if he's audibling or not. It's pretty intense, although it's more intense at Soldier Field, with the crowd noise. That won't be a factor in Miami."

PLAY CLOCK :10

By now Manning has seen the Bears' defensive alignment and is adjusting his call accordingly. The Colts players shift. It's Urlacher's turn to act. "The key for us is to hold our alignment until Peyton is finished with his acrobatics and then go into our own movements," Rivera says. "And that's all on Brian." Rivera snatches a video controller off his desktop on the second floor of Halas Hall, the Bears' training facility in Lake Forest, Ill. "Here's what Brian does for us," he says, cuing up two plays on the wall-sized screen, both from Chicago's win over the Seahawks.

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