Sunday, February 04, 2007

Indianapolis 29 Chicago 17

41 years from now, when this Super Bowl is smack in the middle of a long list of ultimate games, it won't stand out like the more score-appropriate shellackings that come about every few years.

Make no mistake, this was not a close football game.

On a night the rain never stopped, the Bears returned the opening kick for a touchdown. A couple of Indy turnovers and a botched extra point later and the consensus underdogs found themselves up 14-6 ten minutes in -- in stark contrast to the slow starting Super Bowls we've grown accustomed to.

With so much going on, XLI seemed like it could be one of those contests where the inferior team is able to scrap, claw and luck themselves to victory.

To protect their surprising lead, the big play fearing Bears began dropping their safeties -- and often a linebacker or two -- back, conceding the Colts' offense five yard passes on each play. It worked well enough and when Mr. Postseason Perfect himself, Indy kicker Adam Vinatieri, missed a 36 yard chip shot at the gun the Bears went into halftime only down two, despite being substantially outplayed and out gained from scrimmage.

Indy opened the second half with a 13 play 7:30 minute drive. While it only resulted in a field goal the message was clear: Continue to employ a tactic of strategic retreat on defense and you better do something on the offensive side of the ball, or else be bled to death by the clock and the three pointer.

That's about when much-maligned Bears' QB Rex Grossman, who had held it together fairly well in the first half, began to slip, and he began to fall, and when he remained upright he didn't appear to be putting much thought into his passes.

Slowly but emphatically the game slipped away from the challengers, and the better team was able to do what the better team should do.

In 41 years football fans might site this Super Bowl as the moment Peyton Manning -- who played well enough to win game MVP on a day no one else stood out -- began to separate himself from the pack of the other great quarterbacks of NFL history.

Of course predicting 41 years in the future is the height of conceit. One year -- that's only slightly ridiculous.

With that I will proffer my first prediction of the '07 NFL season: The Indianapolis Colts with Manning, his ever ready receiving corps, an emerging two-headed beast at running back and a defense that has finally found its way to average will repeat as NFL champions.

If they end up playing a team that comes at them aggressively, Indy might even get the blow out they deserved tonight.

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