Sports Outside the Beltway

Super Bowl XLI Preview

Da Bears. Da Colts. Da Game. The forty-first clash of football’s champions in a winner take all festival of excess, the national celebration of pigskin supremacy. Ladies, gentlemen and children of all ages, I give you your Super Bowl matchup. Indy is the unstoppable force. Chicago is the immovable object and yes, it is cliched, but you work with what you got.

Peyton Manning Advantage Colts Rex Grossman

Peyton Manning has made it to the big game, at last. Long denied by the machinations of an evil cabal led by Paul Tagliabue, who always liked Tom Brady better, Peyton finally picked himself up off the carpet after ten lackluster quarters of football and finally said, “screw it, I aint got nothing to lose.” And he played like it, dismembering a tired Patriot defense and outplaying the sixth round pick who had long tormented him in both regular and postseason play. Peyton Manning arrives in Miami looking to add a Super Bowl ring to his gaudy passing records. For the Bears is Rex Grossman. Grossman has been the subject of much scrutiny, especially after the way the Packers stomped Chicago in the season’s final game. Grossman has largely relied on his defense and tried minimize his mistakes. The mistakes he made were often when he attempted to exploit a superior secondary. Indy’s secondary is pretty good.

Joseph Addai
Dominic Rhodes
Advantage Bears Thomas Jones
Cedric Benson

The Bears primary strength on offense is with their ground game. Jones and Benson grind out yards, and possess enough breakaway speed to make some big plays. These guys aren’t the heralded backs of the NFL, the Shaun Alexanders or the LaDainian Tomlinsons. But they get the job done. For the Colts Joseph Addai has not replaced Edgerrin James, but he has proved a fresh look, that has been useful in keeping defenses from going Cover 2 and only leaving four up front to rush the passer. He has been effective in a limited role, but he had a few dropped balls in the AFC Championship game and that’s not a trend he wants to continue in big games.

Marvin Harrison
Reggie Wayne
Advantage Colts Mushin Muhammad
Bernard Berrian
Rashied Davis

Harrison and Wayne have been the best receiving duo in this postseason and they remain so. Chicago’s secondary is very good and it will take Charles Tillman, Danieal Manning, Ricky Manning Jr., Nathan Vasher and Todd Johnson playing their best to shut down this pair. Bernard Berrian has been Grossman’s go to guy this post season accounting for 190 yards in the Bears two games. Muhammad remains a reliable target as is Jones out of the backfield.

Dallas Clark
Ben Utecht
Advantage Colts Desmond Clark

D. Clark should lead all tight ends in balls caught and receiving. The question is which one, Dallas (Indy) or Desmond (Chicago)? The Bears featured Desmond Clark as greater part of their overall offensive scheme. His six receiving touchdowns tied for the team lead. Dallas Clark and Ben Utecht combined to slightly exceed the production of Desmond Clark, giving Indy’s balanced tight ends a slight edge.

Dwight Freeney
Cato June
Antoine Bethea
Advantage Bears Alex Brown
Brian Urlacher
Charles Tillman

This is clearly the Bears biggest advantage. Their secondary averaged better than a pick a game, (24 on the season) which has continued with a pair of interceptions in the playoffs. They also pressure quarterbacks recording forty sacks in the regular season. They swarm and stuff. In comparison, Indianapolis’ 15 picks and 25 sacks are dwarfed by the Bears unit. The Colts have a fairly good secondary, but their run defense leaves much to be desired.

Adam Vinatieri
Hunter Smith
Terence Wilkins
Advantage Colts Robbie Gould
Brad Maynard
Rasheid Davis

Adam Vinatieri has won two of the last six Super Bowls with field goals in the waning seconds. Robbie Gould was working construction last year. Smith and Maynard both averaged just over 44 yards per punt. They are almost equal. Terrence Wilkins is the superior kick returner, but Devin Hester is a threat on punt returns. Between Davis and Hester, the Bears have a slightly better return squad. Overall the Colts have the better special teams unit.

Tony Dungy Advantage Bears Lovie Smith

Both coaches have proven their mettle in guiding their teams to the ultimate goal. Super Bowl’s are not won on talent alone. Good game planning and solid coaching makes a big difference. Tony Dungy’s steady reliable coaching has often earned criticism as his teams have underperformed, both in Tampa and in Indy. Smith has not had similar complaints. His Bears teams have overachieved. His players have taken to his style and gone out to battle for him. I’m giving the slightest of edges here.

Lost to the Patriots 17-13 Advantage Colts Beat New England twice
Blew out Buffalo 40-7 Advantage Bears Squeaked out a 17-16 win at home against Buffalo
Lost to the Miami 31-13 Advantage Colts Beat Miami 27-22
Blanked the Jets 10-0 Advantage Bears Beat the Jets 31-28

The common opponents tell us a little about the teams. The Colts overall 5-0 record against the 2-2 split the Bears earned doesn’t make Indianapolis clearly superior. The Bears were beaten by two teams with comparable if not superior defenses. And this year Indianapolis matched up well against New England and Miami. The Jets who ran well against the Colts were shut down in dominating fashion. Tough to tell what it means, but the Colts hold the overall edge.

Indy’s talent is far better than the Bears. On offense, the Colts can rocket past the Bears. But offense is about timing and rhythm and defense is about disruption. It is easier to game plan for defense because of this. The Bears superior defense will keep the game close. A simple game plan of intense pressure on Manning and tight man to man coverage in the secondary may yield a serious disruption of the Colts offense. Meanwhile the Colts have to figure out both how to maintain their offensive rhythm and shut down the Bears running game. An advantage for Chicago is that they have only played twice. The Colts have been through three games including the last two grueling contests – a grinder against the Ravens and the emotional AFC Championship.

The more I look at this game, the more I am reminded of Super Bowl XXV. The K-Gun offense went up against the Giants. The Giants just ran the ball over and over and over and kept the vaunted Bills offense off the field. The Giant defense held tough but it took a missed field goal to secure the victory for New York. The Colts brought Adam Vinatieri in to make those late game clutch kicks.

Indianapolis 22, Chicago 20 Vinatieri splits the uprights, right down the middle, as time expires. And with this game winning kick, you secure your bust in Canton.

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