Colts Claim Championship Through Teamwork

The Colts are the World Champions of the NFL after a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. Indianapolis used a balanced team effort that the Bears just couldn't match to lay claim to the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy since Super Bowl V back in 1971.

The term "total team effort" is highly overused in football, but on Sunday night at Dolphin Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts showed millions of people what it really looks like during a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears to win Super Bowl XLI.

The Colts passed efficiently. They ran effectively. Their defense stole the ball from the Bears five times. And after a shocking kickoff return for a touchdown by the Bears on the opening play of the game, the Colts' special teams even settled down and played well enough to keep Chicago from taking full advantage of their talented returns unit again.

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning brought an end to years of debate over whether or note he could "win the big one" by completing 25-of-38 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. He methodically and patiently moved the Colts into scoring position, finding the holes in a stout Chicago defense both on the ground and through the air as he called out the plays in the offense's quick-huddle mode throughout the evening.

Meanwhile, Bears quarterback Rex Grossman turned in an embarrassing performance that will undoubtedly add fuel to an already hot debate over whether or not he is capable of leading a talented Chicago team to a Super Bowl win in the future.

While he finished the night completing 20-of-28 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown pass, Grossman had just 32 passing yards at the half and a meager 119 yards prior to Chicago's meaningless last gasp possession with less than two minutes remaining. He also threw two interceptions that floated and fluttered in a manner that clearly put the ball up for grabs; foolishly hopeful passes that Super Bowl quarterbacks don't usually risk throwing.

Manning, who was named the MVP, was quick to state that it took a total team effort to win the Lombardi Trophy. And he took a moment to pay a special tribute to the Colts' defense. Indianapolis became the first team in the history of the NFL to win a Super Bowl after finishing the regular season with the lowest-ranked rushing defense in the league. But during postseason play, they were a dominating presence.

"The defense played outstanding, creating turnovers and getting us the ball back," Manning said. "It was nice to get this win really as a team."

Rookie running back Joseph Addai finished second in the MVP balloting with 77 yards rushing on 19 carries, but more importantly pulled in a team-leading 10 receptions for 66 yards that helped sustain drives by the Colts throughout the night. Addai's ten catches set a Super Bowl record for a rookie and tied the record for the most receptions by a running back.

Colts RB Dominic Rhodes runs with Bears LB Hunter Hillenmeyer in pursuit (Getty Images/Donald Miralle)
Finishing third in the voting was running back Dominic Rhodes, who certainly boosted his stock as an upcoming unrestricted free agent with another strong postseason performance. Rhodes battered his way through a Chicago defense that was highly heralded coming into the matchup, rushing for 113 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown.

"Our line was making great holes and I was trying to hit them and produce for us," he said. 

Early in the contest, the Bears lost half of their potent rushing tandem when Cedric Benson hurt his knee on his second run of the night. Veteran Thomas Jones tried to carry the load the rest of the way and finished with 112 yards on 15 carries.

Fifty-two of those yards came on one exciting play, setting the Bears up for their second touchdown of the night, a 4-yard pass from Grossman to Muhsin Muhammad to put the Bears up 14-6 with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter. Devin Hester had opened the game with a stunning 92-yard kickoff return. But it apparently didn't phase the Colts. Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy said that the team maintained their "no panic" poise that they had shown all season through their ups and downs.

"No one was really shocked, no one was upset after the opening kick," he said. "It was just 7 points and we felt we could get back in it."

And they did. On their second possession of the game, the Colts answered with a 9-play drive that was capped off by a 53-yard touchdown catch by Reggie Wayne after the Bears left him get wide open due to a blown coverage assignment. The Colts missed the extra point when the ball slipped through the hands of holder Hunter Smith.

The Colts scored twice in the second quarter while their defense shut down the Bears offense. Adam Vinatieri kicked a 29-yard field goal and Dominic Rhodes scored on a 1-yard run to finish off a 7-play 58-yard drive.

Bears QB Rex Grossman tries to scoop up a fumble (Getty Images/Jed Jacobsohn)
On a rainy night that contributed to a pair of Colts fumbles and four more by the Bears, all but one was recovered by the opposition. That was a dramatic departure from the teams' combined good fortune with fumbles during the postseason where the Colts had recovered all six of their fumbles and the Bears had recovered four of their five miscues.

But Grossman's two fumbles were the most costly. He fumbled the snap not just once, but twice. With the Bears trailing 16-14 with just over a minute left to play in the first half, he lost the ball away at his own 36 with an opportunity to move his team into field goal position for a halftime lead. Then, during the Bears' first possession of the second half at the Indy 45-yard line, he was sacked and followed that up with a fumble that he recovered for another loss. The Bears were forced to punt, losing another scoring opportunity.

"We couldn't get anything going," said Chicago's offensive coordinator Ron Turner. "We never got in rhythm, never got in sync. We never got any drives going."

The Colts responded with a 24-yard Vinatieri field goal to widen their narrow margin to five in a contest that by then was clearly being dominated by Indianapolis.

After the teams traded another pair of field goals in the third quarter, a 20-yard effort by Vinatieri and a 44-yarder by Bears kicker Robbie Gould,  they entered the fourth quarter with the game still somehow up for grabs with the Colts holding a 22-17 advantage.

Colts DB Kelvin Hayden intercepts a fourth-quarter pass in front of Bears WR Muhsin Muhammad (Getty Images/Jed Jacobsohn)
But Grossman then tossed up the first of two fourth-quarter interceptions against an aggressive Indy defense that held Chicago to just 265 total yards on the night. Second-year defensive back Kelvin Hayden battled Muhammad for a jump-ball that he returned 56 yards to push the Colts to a 29-17 advantage with just under 12 minutes remaining.

"In hindsight, I wish I would have thrown it away. But I was giving Moose a chance to go out and battle for it," Grossman said. "The timing of it wasn't right. I should have waited until Moose had his eyes around so that he could see the ball in the air."

Safety Bob Sanders used a deceptive angle and a tremendous leap to kill the Bears' next possession with another interception that put the Chicago offense back on the bench while the Colts continued to work the clock.

"We were in Cover 2. They did a little play action," Sanders explained. "I figured he [Rex Grossman] was going to try to hit it over the middle because we had the linebacker running through.

"Once he threw it up, I just took off and kept my eyes on the ball and just became the receiver."

The teams' two defenses stayed true to their postseason form. The Bears hadn't allowed a fourth quarter score in their two playoff games and the Colts were only allowing an average of 3 points in the final period to their opponents. So it was fitting that the only scoring during the final 15 minutes was put up by the defense.

"We imposed our will," Rhodes said. "We have done what a lot said we couldn't do. We won the Super Bowl."

With the victory, the Colts won their first championship since Super Bowl V back in January, 1971. And it's the first NFL Championship for the city of Indianapolis following the Colts' move there back in 1984.

"I love these guys," Colts head coach Tony Dungy after the game. "I really know what we went through to win this one. It feels great."

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