Monday, February 5, 2007
MIAMI, Feb. 4 -- Peyton Manning's first Super Bowl was rain-soaked and inelegant. But no one on the Indianapolis Colts' soggy sideline at Dolphin Stadium was about to complain Sunday night. Manning cemented his place among the sport's greatest quarterbacks as the Colts used a spread-the-wealth approach on offense and benefited from the fourth-quarter gaffes of Rex Grossman to beat the Chicago Bears, 29-17, in Super Bowl XLI.
Manning got his long-awaited Super Bowl triumph to go with his list of passing records. His coach, Tony Dungy, beat his good friend and Bears counterpart, Lovie Smith, in the matchup of the first black head coaches to lead their teams to the Super Bowl.
"We figured it was our year all year," Colts safety Bob Sanders said, "and we made it count."
A game that was played in a driving rain produced eight turnovers, five of them by the Bears. Smith spent the week defending Grossman, his mistake-prone quarterback. But Grossman rewarded that support by throwing the interception that sealed the Bears' fate.
They trailed by only 22-17 early in the fourth quarter when Grossman lobbed a throw in the general direction of wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. The ball went directly to Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who grabbed it and broke a tackle attempt by Muhammad. Hayden weaved his way around Bears players to the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown. The Colts finally had breathing room in a game in which they had controlled the action but hadn't been able to get comfortably ahead on the scoreboard. Smith's instant-replay challenge contending that Hayden had stepped out of bounds was denied.
Grossman also threw an interception on the Bears' next possession and the outcome never was in doubt again.
Manning completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and was named the game's most valuable player. He threw an early interception but also had a 53-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Reggie Wayne during a first quarter in which the teams combined for four turnovers and 20 points.
Manning said he wasn't seeking validation for his career. He got it anyway.
"I never played that card or played that game," he said. "But it's nice to finally be on a championship team. . . . It's all happening pretty fast right now. I'm excited. I'm proud to be on this team. It's something I'll enjoy for a long time."
Said Dungy: "I don't think there's anything you can say now other than this guy is a Hall of Famer and one of the best players to ever play the game."
Colts tailbacks Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai had 190 rushing yards between them. Rhodes ran for 113 yards and a touchdown. Addai also had 10 catches. Adam Vinatieri provided three field goals.
Last season, the Colts chased an unbeaten season but didn't get it, then fell agonizingly short of the Super Bowl. This season, they were less dominant but more resilient, and they ended their string of big-game failures by beating the New England Patriots in a thrilling AFC title game and then outlasting the Bears here.