- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007


There were issues created by Mother Nature in the form of rain.

There were miscues by both teams in the form of eight turnovers.

There were penalties by the Indianapolis Colts in the form of false starts.

And there were short passes by the Chicago Bears in the form of Mark Brunell.

No, last night’s 29-17 Super Bowl XLI victory by the Colts at Dolphin Stadium wasn’t pretty, wasn’t “Instant Classic”-worthy and wasn’t nearly as good as the epic New England-Indianapolis AFC title game two weeks before.

But when two defensive head coaches spend two weeks dissecting their opponents, the end result is usually more punts than big plays and more field goals than touchdowns.

The surprising part from the Monday Morning Quarterback’s perspective is that the Colts were terrible inside the 20-yard line (a place from which they usually score touchdowns) and the unimaginative game plan by the Bears, who looked as if they were scared to let quarterback Rex Grossman do anything resembling a gamble.

All in all, it again was a game not worthy of its buildup.

Question: A softball to start the final MMQB of the year — did the better team win?

Answer: This year, the better team did win. The MMQB is still convinced Seattle was the better team last year but lost to Pittsburgh.

The Colts are better than the Bears. Period. And so are New England, San Diego and maybe Baltimore. It took a while for Indianapolis to get going, but it outgained Chicago 257-95 in the first half, and if it weren’t for the Colts’ red zone troubles, the game would have been out of hand in the third quarter.

Q: What was the difference in the Colts extending the AFC’s dominance in the Super Bowl?

A: Hard to tell, really. Indianapolis didn’t exactly play a great game offensively, and its coverage team gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. And all of the first-half turnovers basically canceled each other out.

The Colts’ run defense was the difference. Chicago wanted to run the ball 40 times. Indianapolis ended the regular season ranked last against the run but ended the postseason by allowing about 100 fewer yards a game, an incredible turn of events.

Q: There were six turnovers in the first half (three for each team). How much did the conditions play in all of the miscues?

A: Not much is the MMQB’s guess. On the three Colts turnovers, Peyton Manning threw into double coverage for an interception, Chicago’s Alex Brown blew up a running play to force Joseph Addai’s fumble, and Charles Tillman made a nice hit on Bryan Fletcher to force a fumble. For the Bears, a helmet-on-ball hit forced Gabe Reid to fumble on a kickoff and Cedric Benson to fumble on a carry. Grossman never had his snap from center for the third turnover.

It wasn’t exactly an exercise in fine fundamentals, though.

Q: The Colts had only six points from their three first-half takeaways. Was Indianapolis playing with fire?

A: They were playing with a towering inferno … and got away with it because they had two second-half takeaways, including an interception return for a touchdown.

Q: You got your first in-person glimpse of Colts safety Bob Sanders (he was hurt and missed the Redskins game in late October). How much better is he than Redskins safety Sean Taylor?

A: It’s not even close — despite not being as physically impressive (he’s only 5-foot-8) — Sanders is the far superior safety, though Taylor gets more publicity nationally for his big hits.

There are two big differences between Sanders and Taylor. First, Sanders knows how to tackle. He wraps up and doesn’t try to use his helmet as a weapon. Taylor, meanwhile, likes to tackle high and go for the knockout shot. Second, Sanders creates turnovers. He caused a fumble in the first half for the Colts and had a fourth-quarter interception. The MMQB will take Sanders every time. Only Baltimore’s Ed Reed is better than Sanders.

Q: Why did the Colts kick to Devin Hester to open the game and subsequently see him return 92 yards for a touchdown?

A: Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri tried to angle the kickoff to his right corner. But the conditions were dicey, and it wasn’t a bad kick. Hester was able to corral it and start the Super Bowl in electrifying fashion.

From there, the Colts basically said they would sacrifice field position to keep it out of Hester’s hands, using a squib kick and a high, short kick later in the first half.

Q: Did Manning absolutely have to win this game to avoid being labeled a bum for eternity?

A: Of course not. Remember, John Elway lost three Super Bowls — none of them close — before winning two titles to close his career.

Manning is 30 years old, and his best receiver, Marvin Harrison, is 34. So there isn’t exactly a ton of time left, but if Indianapolis can play defense like it did the last month, there well could be another ring for the Colts.

Q: Regardless of the result, are the Bears the team to beat in the NFC next season?

A: This is a tough one. The MMQB saw the Bears play their last three games, and only Hester stood out as a game-breaking player. It will be up to Grossman because the defense — even if it loses Lance Briggs in free agency and Ron Rivera to a head job or another coordinator position — will remain stout and the special teams are always dangerous. If Grossman can improve, Chicago should be right up there with Philadelphia (if Donovan McNabb returns to top form) and New Orleans (if the Saints can keep Drew Brees upright) and as long as the NFC North remains a joke.

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