the Colts' nerves with 6:58 left in the first quarter. On third-and-10 from the
Indy 47 he called 66 D X-Pump, a play Moore installed for the Super Bowl that
called for Wayne, lined up to the left side, to run an in-and-go route designed
to exploit Chicago's base Cover Two zone scheme. The hope was that Bears free
safety Danieal Manning (no relation) would bite on the pump-fake. What Peyton
got was even more ideal-- Chicago's Manning, who seemed to be playing man
coverage while the rest of his teammates followed their zone assignments,
jumped tight end Ben Utecht's inside route, leaving Wayne alone in the middle
of the field. Facing pressure from defensive tackle Tank Johnson, Manning
stayed in the pocket long enough to let Wayne break free, then delivered a
rainbow that, from the receiver's perspective, "seemed like it hung in the
air forever." Wayne spun around to catch the ball inside the 20 and cruised
into the end zone to complete the 53-yard touchdown; Indy trailed 7--6 after
punter Hunter Smith botched the hold on the extra point.
kicked short to avoid another runback by Hester (a practice Indy followed for
the rest of the game), and the Colts got the ball back when Robert Mathis
forced a Gabe Reid fumble and Tyjuan Hagler recovered. But on the next play
Manning and Addai failed to connect on a handoff, and Mark Anderson, the Bears'
rookie defensive end, pounced on the ball. Remarkably, it was the first of two
back-to-back fumble sequences in the first half. (The Blooper Bowl would
include eight turnovers, five by Chicago.) During the play Manning banged the
already sprained thumb on his passing hand that had required a pregame
painkilling injection, but the football gods were taking care of him. "With
a wet ball," he explained later, "you've got to hold it light to make
it go where you want. So the bad thumb kind of helped me because I couldn't
grip it real hard."
(25 of 38, 247 yards, one touchdown) took hold of the game, the Bears mustered
one show of offensive force. A 52-yard run by halfback Thomas Jones set up
Grossman's four-yard touchdown pass to wideout Muhsin Muhammad, giving Chicago
a 14--6 lead with 4:34 left in the first quarter. At that point, to paraphrase
halftime performer Prince, many in the decidedly pro-Bears crowd were ready to
party like it was 1986. But Indy pulled ahead before halftime on the first of
three Vinatieri field goals and Rhodes's one-yard scoring run. With a 16--14
lead, the Colts' increasingly energized defenders were confident the game was
"Once we got
the lead, we knew," said Harper, who reaggravated a left high-ankle sprain
late in the second quarter and did not return. "We wanted to put the ball
in Grossman's hands. Now I can say what I'd really felt all week: We'd seen the
film, and we knew there was no way in hell they were going to beat us in the
When Grossman got
the ball at his own 20 trailing 22--17 and with 13:38 left in the game, he had
a chance to answer Harper and all the other critics who'd dogged him for much
of his first full season as a starter. Instead, he underthrew a sideline pass
to Muhammad that Hayden caught and returned to break the game open. Less than
two minutes after that mistake, Grossman lobbed a deep ball for wideout Bernard
Berrian that was intercepted by free safety Bob Sanders, and the only remaining
suspense was whether Dungy would receive a Gatorade bath. (He did, though in
the steady rain it's a wonder the unflappable coach even noticed.)
The game had been
over for an hour and a half before Manning finally showered. He didn't leave
the locker room until after midnight, when the rest of his teammates had
already boarded buses that would take them to the victory party at their hotel.
At 30, after so many years spent in the spotlight--that's life when you're the
son of football icon Archie Manning--he had finally earned the bling that would
validate his status as one of the game's enduring elite, and he wanted to get
the party started. Glory days, they'll pass you by....
The rain drenched
Manning's dark suit as he left the stadium and walked briskly toward the last
of the buses. A few steps behind, his older brother, Cooper, looked back and,
worried that Archie might be left behind amid the confusion, yelled, "Dad!
Come on! We've got to go!" Archie picked up the pace, but it proved
unnecessary. There, waiting at the bus's front door, was Peyton, smiling like a
newly crowned champion. As his teammates could have attested, there was no way
in hell that bus was leaving until the quarterback was good and ready.
contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
IND: Rhodes 21--113 (1 TD), Addai 19--77, Clark 1--1, Manning 1--0.
CHI: Jones 15--112, Grossman 2--0, Benson 2 for --1.