February 4, 2012

2007: Colts Overpower Bears in Super Bowl XLI

The Indianapolis Colts had been to the playoffs for four straight years prior to the 2006 season, but had come up short in their efforts to reach the Super Bowl. Under Head Coach Tony Dungy, and with star QB Peyton Manning (pictured at right) directing the offense, the Colts had twice been defeated by the Patriots in the postseason, once in an AFC Championship game. But on February 4, 2007 they faced the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl, having beaten New England for the AFC title.

In addition to Manning, the Colts had an outstanding wide receiver tandem in Marvin Harrison (95 catches, 1366 yards, 12 TDs) and Reggie Wayne (86 catches, 1310 yards, 9 TDs) and versatile TE Dallas Clark. Rookie RB Joseph Addai rushed for 1081 yards and caught 40 passes and backup Dominic Rhodes added 641 yards on the ground and 36 pass receptions. Defense had been a problem during the regular season, however, in particular against the run and most notably in a bad late-season loss to the Jaguars. In fact, after starting off at 9-0, Indianapolis went 3-4 to finish at 12-4, still best in the AFC South, but cause for concern heading into the playoffs. The defense tightened up in postseason wins over the Chiefs and Ravens in which they gave up a total of 14 points before defeating the Patriots 38-34 in the conference showdown.

The Bears, under third-year Head Coach Lovie Smith, utilized a formula typical of successful seasons in that franchise’s long history – a conservative offense combined with an outstanding defense. In his first full year as the starting quarterback, Rex Grossman was inconsistent, as indicated by 23 TD passes and 20 interceptions. RB Thomas Jones (1210 yards) led a productive running attack that also included RB Cedric Benson (647 yards). Catching the ball was 33-year-old possession WR Muhsin Muhammad, big-play WR Bernard Berrian, and dependable TE Desmond Clark. The defense suffered after losing SS Mike Brown and DT Tommie Harris during the course of the year, but still contained All-Pro MLB Brian Urlacher and Pro Bowl OLB Lance Briggs. An additional weapon on special teams was rookie DB Devin Hester, who returned five kicks for touchdowns during the regular season (three punt returns, two kickoff returns).

Adding to the overall significance of the occasion was the fact that both coaches, Dungy and Smith, were African-Americans, thus assuring that for the first time a Super Bowl-winning team would have a black head coach.

There was a steady rain falling at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, with 74,512 in attendance. They didn’t have to wait long for excitement as Chicago’s Hester ran the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown (pictured below). The defense got a takeaway on the first Indianapolis possession, with SS Chris Harris intercepting a Manning pass on a third-and-13 play. The Bears couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, however, going three-and-out.

Following a punt into the end zone for a touchback, the Colts started their next series at the 20 yard line and proceeded to drive 80 yards in eight plays. Manning had three short completions and a long one to Wayne that covered 53 yards for a TD. The extra point had to be aborted when the snap was mishandled, allowing the Bears to hold onto a 7-6 lead.

Indianapolis, squibbing the kickoff to keep it away from Hester, got the ball right back as TE Gabe Reid fumbled and the Colts recovered at the Chicago 34. But they turned it over on the next play when Manning and Addai muffed a handoff and the Bears recovered. Thomas Jones took off on a 52-yard run and shortly thereafter Grossman connected with Muhammad for a four-yard touchdown. Robbie Gould’s successful PAT put the Bears up by eight points at 14-6.

Neither offense could move for the remainder of the first quarter but the Colts commenced a drive on the final play of the period that went 63 yards in eight plays and ended with Adam Vinatieri’s 29-yard field goal to reduce the Chicago margin to 14-9. Following another three-and-out possession by the Bears, Indianapolis took over at its 42 after the ensuing punt. Manning threw to Harrison for 22 yards and then to Clark for 17 and, suddenly, the Colts were at the Chicago 19. Dominic Rhodes ran four times, with a short pass interspersed, the last carry resulting in a one-yard touchdown. This time the extra point was successful and the Colts took the lead by 16-14.

The Bears again had another short possession, punted, and the Colts got to the Chicago 43 with less than two minutes remaining in the half before TE Bryan Fletcher fumbled after catching a pass and the Bears recovered – only to fumble the ball back to Indianapolis on the next play. Vinatieri was wide on a 36-yard field goal attempt and the turnover-filled first half ended with the Colts still up by two.

The third quarter started off with a long, 13-play drive by Indianapolis that went 56 yards and took up 7:34. Manning completed six passes (two of them despite falling while throwing) and Joseph Addai ran five times for 25 yards and caught four of the throws for another 27. Vinatieri capped the possession with a 24-yard field goal and the Colts extended their lead to five points at 19-14.

Following another short series by the Bears, Rhodes took off on a 36-yard run for the Colts and, after driving to the two yard line, Vinatieri added another three points with a 20-yard kick to make it 22-14. Helped by an unnecessary roughness penalty on the ensuing kickoff, Chicago started its next possession at the Indianapolis 40 and a six-play drive resulted in a 44-yard field goal by Gould.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Bears were down by just five points. However, after a punt by the Colts and a 22-yard pass completion to Muhammad, Grossman went deep and was intercepted by DB Kelvin Hayden, who returned it 56 yards for a touchdown. While there was still 11:44 remaining on the clock, for all intents the game was over.

Grossman gave up another interception on Chicago’s next possession and the Bears had to turn the ball over on downs at their own 47 on the following series. The Colts kept the ball on the ground and chewed up time, and the game ended with the Bears in their own territory on offense. Indianapolis was the NFL Champion by a score of 29-17.

The Colts outgained Chicago (430 yards to 265), but were especially effective on the ground (191 yards). The Bears hurt themselves with five turnovers, to three by Indianapolis in the sloppy conditions.

While he did not have a big statistical day, Peyton Manning was the game’s MVP as he completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards with a TD and an interception. Joseph Addai (pictured below) ran the ball 19 times for 77 yards and caught 10 passes for another 66 yards. Dominic Rhodes had 113 yards on 21 carries that included a touchdown. Marvin Harrison had 5 receptions for 59 yards and, while Reggie Wayne caught just two passes, they gained 61 yards and included a score.

For the Bears, Rex Grossman was successful on 20 of 28 throws for 165 yards with a TD, but had two intercepted. Thomas Jones rushed for 112 yards on 15 carries thanks to the season-high 52-yard carry. Desmond Clark was the team’s top receiver with 6 receptions for 64 yards. Devin Hester had the game-opening 92-yard kickoff return, but other than a three-yard punt return, the Colts were able to keep the ball away from him for the remainder of the contest.

“Peyton is a tremendous player, a great leader,” Coach Dungy said of his quarterback. “He prepares, he works, does everything you can do to win games and lead your team. If people think he needed to win a Super Bowl, that is just wrong. This guy is a Hall of Fame player and one of the greatest ever to play.”

About being the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl, Dungy added, “It feels great. I thought about that as I was on the podium - being the first African-American coach to win it. I have to dedicate to some guys before me - great coaches I know could have done this if they had gotten the opportunity. Lovie and I were able to take advantage of it. We certainly weren't the most qualified.”

The Colts returned to the postseason in 2007 but were upset by San Diego in the Divisional round – they lost to the Chargers again in the Wild Card playoff following the ’08 season before winning another AFC Championship in 2009. Chicago dropped to 7-9 in ’07 and didn’t return to the playoffs until 2010.