Horse power

Balanced Colts win first title since moving to Indy

Ground game, `D' join MVP Manning in declawing Bears

SUPER BOWL Colts 29, Bears 17

February 05, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun Reporter

MIAMI -- It took 36 years and a tumultuous relocation from Baltimore, but the Colts are on top of the football world again.

Like it or not, Baltimore, the Indianapolis Colts reigned in the rain, beating the Chicago Bears, 29-17, in the Super Bowl last night.

Behind the patient passing of Peyton Manning, the tough running of their backs and the timely second-half play of their defense, the Colts won their first NFL title since their bitter move to Indianapolis in 1984.

The wild and often sloppy Super Bowl - the first played in the rain in the event's 41-year history - crowned Manning as a championship quarterback and made Tony Dungy the first African-American coach to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

"It's hard to put into words," said Manning, the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player who long had the reputation for putting up big numbers but not winning big games. "It sure is a great feeling."

After overcoming a hostile crowd in Baltimore in the divisional round and rallying from 18 points down in the AFC championship game, the Colts weren't going to let anything stand in their way last night.

Not the heavy downpour, which negated their speed on offense. Not the crowd of 74,512 at Dolphin Stadium, most of which cheered loudly for the Bears. And certainly not the ragged start that put them in an eight-point hole.

Manning shook off an interception on his first drive to finish 25-for-38 for 247 yards and a touchdown. With the Bears playing a deep zone most of the game, Manning was content to throw short, efficient passes but did hit Reggie Wayne for a 53-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

It completed a nine-year quest for the two-time NFL MVP: a championship ring.

"I don't think there's anything you can say now, other than this guy is a Hall of Fame player and one of the greatest players to ever play the game," Dungy said.

This triumph was hardly the Manning show.

There were running backs Dominic Rhodes (113 yards rushing) and Joseph Addai (77), who exposed Chicago's poor tackling to combine for 190 yards on the ground. And there was the Colts' defense, which came up with five turnovers, including a game-clinching 56-yard interception return for a touchdown by backup cornerback Kelvin Hayden.

As the confetti showered the field, the scoreboard flashed the blue horseshoe over the words: "Super Bowl XLI Champions."

"That's been our theme all year," Manning said. "We won as a team."

The Bears, the top-seeded NFC team, jumped out to a 14-6 lead in the first quarter but were undone by their erratic quarterback. In a signature meltdown, Rex Grossman (20-for-28 for 165 yards) threw two interceptions and fumbled once.

As the final seconds ticked off, Dungy became the first black coach to win the championship, beating good friend and protege Lovie Smith in a game that featured two black coaches for the first time in Super Bowl history.

"I thought about it when I was on the podium, being the first African-American coach to win it," Dungy said. "I have to dedicate this to some guys before me - great coaches I know could have done this if they had gotten the opportunity. Lovie and I were able to take advantage of it. We certainly weren't the most qualified."

From the opening kickoff returned for a touchdown, the Super Bowl began with fireworks (on and off the field) and surprises, as the Bears, seven-point underdogs, ambushed the Colts in an action-packed start.

The first quarter featured four turnovers, three touchdowns and two offensive plays over 50 yards.

Devin Hester set the tone by returning the opening kickoff 92 yards, the quickest score in Super Bowl history. Hester, who returned an NFL-record seven kicks for touchdowns this season, caught the ball on the left side and made two cuts to break free to the end zone.

It marked the first time since the Ravens' Jermaine Lewis in 2001 that a kickoff had been returned for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

"I'm so proud of our guys," Dungy said. "We took the hit early with Devin Hester. We talked about it; it's going to be a storm. Sometimes you have to work for it. Our guys played so hard and I can't tell you how proud I am of our group, our organization and our city."

After Wayne's touchdown and a botched extra point cut the deficit to 7-6, the teams traded fumbles before Bears running back Thomas Jones broke a 52-yard run (the longest of the season for Chicago) and Grossman slipped a 4-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad.

The Bears' offense fell into a rut after that score, failing to produce a first down on five straight series.

Down 14-6, the Colts started to take control of the game in the second quarter.

They cut into that deficit with Adam Vinatieri's 29-yard field goal and then took their first lead at 16-14 on Rhodes' 1-yard run up the gut of the defense.

After Indianapolis extended its lead to 22-14 on field goals of 24 and 20 yards from Vinatieri, it essentially sealed the victory 3:16 into the fourth quarter on a turn of events that will haunt Grossman.

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