February 05, 2007
Winning Sloppy: The Proven Colts Super Style
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
MIAMI -- Instead of Peyton Manning's crowning glory, this Super Bowl will be more remembered in its historical context. And it is most unflattering if you like the Colts.
All three Super Bowls the Colts have been in have been in Miami, the first two in the Orange Bowl. All three Colt Super Bowls were games rife with turnovers. All three games were some of the sloppiest Super Bowl games ever played, especially on the Colts' behalf (only the 1968 Jets can say they played well in a Colt Super Bowl). And, like Super Bowl V, the last time the Colts were world champs, it was more about opponent mistakes than Colt prowess.
As many thought going into the game, Rex Grossman would emerge as one of the worst, if not the worst, Super Bowl quarterback in history. Grossman threw two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and led a Bear offense which went nearly half the game without a first down. All Manning had to do was to not screw up in a rain-soaked mess at Dolphins Stadium, and Manning came through with only one interception in leading the Colts to a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Manning's numbers aren't all that bad: 25 of 38 passing, 247 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a passer rating of 81.8. It was good enough to get him game MVP, even though rookie running back Joseph Addai made a much better case for that award with 77 yards rushing and 66 yards catching (Addai caught a team-high ten passes). Dominic Rhodes also made a good MVP case, chipping in with 113 yards rushing and a 5.4 yards per carry average. But sentiment prevailed over everything else, and the voters felt compelled to give the award to Manning, still more known for his playoff failures than for the one title he now owns.
And no one can take it away from Manning or any other Colt. They outplayed the Bears by a mile, as this column predicted they would two weeks ago. It is just to say that, in an historical sense, this was a typical Colt Super Bowl win in a typical Colt Super Bowl. The game reeked of turnovers, just like Super Bowl V did (seven by the victorious Colts, four by the Cowboys), and the Colts suffered four interceptions and a lost fumble in Super Bowl III.
In this slopfest, the first rainy Super Bowl in history, there were three total interceptions and five lost fumbles by both teams combined. Grossman had two fumbles, both on bad exchanges from center, and lost one of them. The eight combined turnovers fell three short of the eleven in Super Bowl V, but it did bring back memories of what it is like for the Colts in the Super Bowl era.
In three combined Super Bowls, the Colts have suffered a total of 15 giveaways, but are 2-1 all time in Super Bowls. At least Manning finally has some equal footing with the victorious Hall of Fame quarterback in Super Bowl V, Johnny Unitas. Both Unitas and Manning proved they can win championships amidst adversity.
Turnovers were only one element of the game which doomed the Bears, who lost the first Super Bowl in their team history. The Bears' vaunted defense was hardly such on Sunday night, allowing themselves to be bludgeoned by both Rhodes and Addai on the ground. As a team, the Colts rushed for 191 yards rushing and a 4.5 yards per carry average. Having Tank Johnson, who is on release thanks to a Cook County, Illinois judge despite his being bound over for trial on weapons possession charges, made no difference whatsoever in the Bears trying to slow down the Colt run attack.
The Colt passing attack consisted largely of dump-offs to Addai and Dallas Clark, not much else. The Bears were not at all prepared for Addai in this sense, as they never found a way to clip or check him coming out of the backfield. And on the one big play of the evening, a 53-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne in the first quarter (one of only two catches he would make in the game), Wayne was wide open because Charles Tillman let Wayne go, thinking there was help behind him when there was none.
Grossman's numbers aren't really gross. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 165 yards, but that only comes out to a little over eight yards per completion. He threw one touchdown pass (a four-yard pass to Muhsin Muhammad in the second quarter) and had the two picks. His rating was 68.3, which while not real good, is not a total disaster.
But his general ineffectiveness will leave Bear fans with a bad taste in their mouths, and many of them should have or did see this coming. After a thirteen-yard pass to Bernard Berrian with 3:05 left in the first quarter, the Bears would not get their next first down until a 14-yard pass to Thomas Jones just halfway through the third quarter. Jones finished with 112 yards rushing and a 7.5 average, which is unusual for a Super Bowl loser to have a rusher with such good stats. Of the Bears' 17 points, seven of them came on the opening kickoff, a 92-yard touchdown scamper by Devin Hester.
To be fair, Jones' rushing stats are a little misleading. Take away a 52-yard first quarter run and he only has 60 yards on 14 carries and an average of slightly over four. Jones' rushing partner, Cedric Benson, suffered a knee injury late in the first quarter and never returned, hampering the Bears' chances at establishing a decent run attack against a Colt defense which picked just the right time to learn how to stuff the run.
The only real chance the Bears had at winning this game was to use their defensive strength and tenacity to slow down Manning and Addai, and to hold the Colts to single digit points. With the steady downpour of rain the entire game, the weather played well into the Bears' hands. But the Bears were totally unable to use the weather to their advantage, as Manning killed them with the short passing game and the Colt rushers added the knockout punch. Grossman showed everyone that he is not a championship caliber quarterback, and when he was needed to match point for point with Manning, he might just have well been the next Republican sad sack trying to unseat Ted Kennedy.
Now the football public is in for more Manning commercials, except now he finally has a Vince in his back pocket. When John Elway finally won, it was more of a feel-good story because he suffered longer, and that you weren't over saturated with the guy. With Manning, you are. Unless you live in Indiana or are related to Manning, the last thing you want to see is more "Cut that meat!" stuff coming from Madison Avenue. This is why many people nationwide were pleading for a Bear win, which was reflected in the mostly pro-Bear crowd in Miami on Sunday night.
And it just figures that it took a sloppy game on a sloppy night to make the Colts champions. They had the kicker who knows about garrison finishes, but no such magic was needed from Adam Vinatieri on Sunday night (news flash: he missed a kick, folks). The Colts were well served thanks to Da Bumblin' Bears, and football bards were reminded of players such as Eddie Hinton (fumble), Craig Morton (three picks), Ron Widby (nine punts), Jerry Logan (game-ending pick), and the only player chosen as MVP from a losing team, Chuck Howley (a game-high two interceptions) in the fifth Vince classic.
Classic? In Colt Nation, you betcha.
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