IT STARTED as a
freak show, with a record four turnovers in the first quarter, but then the
Colts turned Super Bowl XLI into a sound, workmanlike production, just the kind
of defeat the Bears had hung on opponents all season.
up a 29--17 victory without spectacular plays. Except for a 53-yard touchdown
pass to Reggie Wayne through busted coverage, Peyton Manning didn't get much
accomplished downfield. He didn't have to. He had Joseph Addai, the rookie
running back who turned the check-down pass into an art form.
A case could be
made for Addai as the game's MVP. He turned four-yard gains into plus-eights,
cutting sharply and breaking the tackles of overpursuing defenders. He kept the
sticks moving. On the opening drive of the second half, in which the Colts
stretched their lead to 19--14, Addai handled the ball on nine of 12 plays to
set up Adam Vinatieri's field goal. You had to wonder if Manning was
overworking the rookie at times.
check with him," Manning said. "I kept asking him, 'You all right?' He
kept saying he was, so I kept going to him. They were taking away our deep
passes with their Cover Two. Plus the wind and rain made it kind of risky
downfield. Their linebackers were taking deep drops, so I had no choice but to
go underneath. Plus our running was working."
ball-possession approach did to the Bears exactly what Indy had done to the
Patriots in the AFC Championship Game--run up an inordinate disparity in snaps.
After three quarters the Colts had run 66 plays to the Bears' 28; the overload
was 81--48 at game's end. It was the third time in four postseason games that
Indy had run 80 or more plays. Two weeks earlier the Colts had simply taken New
England's legs away. The Bears didn't visibly tire, but you could tell the
strain was getting to the defense by the number of tackles Chicago missed.
"The Bears never broke. I really respect them," Colts left tackle Tarik
Glenn said. "But we were hitting them with our running game, catching their
stunts just right and throwing on them underneath."
wouldn't have worked, of course, if the Indy defense hadn't shut down Chicago
in rather shocking fashion. The platform of the Bears' offense was the running
game, and the Colts, for the most part, shut it down with speed. They attacked
quarterback Rex Grossman by concentrating on his most dangerous weapon, the
deep strike. "He likes to go deep on first down," Indy defensive
coordinator Ron Meeks said, "so we let him throw into our Cover Two,
sometimes even a three deep with the corners back and a safety in the middle.
That, plus the wind and the rain, made it very rough for him."
Two deep balls
were intercepted. Grossman completed only two passes longer than 14 yards, a
22-yarder to Muhsin Muhammad early in the fourth quarter and an 18-yarder to
tight end Desmond Clark on the game's last play. Working underneath is not
Grossman's style, and on the handful of occasions when the Colts blitzed, the
defensive backs, particularly free safety Bob Sanders, jumped the hot
And Indy didn't
miss tackles, which was a tremendous difference between the two defenses. The
Bears were missing, the Colts weren't. Talk about surprises.