key matchups -- by edward lee

Super Bowl

February 05, 2007

Peyton Manning vs. Rex Grossman

What was I thinking when I wrote in yesterday's staff predictions that Grossman would have "a solid game"? To be fair, both Grossman and Manning began the game looking as jittery as 12-year-olds at their first school dance, but Grossman never recovered. The former Florida Gator threw for just 32 yards in the first half, lost a mishandled snap that the Colts nearly converted into a score and threw a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Kelvin Hayden and returned 56 yards for a touchdown with 11:44 left in the fourth quarter. Grossman's attempt to spark the Bears on the ensuing series backfired when safety Bob Sanders intercepted a 40-yard bomb intended for wide receiver Bernard Berrian. Grossman's futility was defined on one series in the third quarter when a second-and-one from the Colts' 45-yard line ended with a sack and another botched snap. On the flip side, Manning wasn't sharp either. He threw a duck on the Colts' first possession that was intercepted by safety Chris Harris and fumbled a handoff to running back Joseph Addai. But Manning did find wide receiver Reggie Wayne on a beautiful 53-yard strike in the first quarter that Manning created by stepping up into the pocket and giving Wayne time to split the cornerback and safety. Winner: Manning.

Devin Hester vs. Colts special teams

CBS analyst Phil Simms talked about how he had never seen a team practice kickoff and punt coverage as long as the Colts had last week. You couldn't tell on the first play of the game when Hester, who set an NFL record with six returns for touchdowns during the regular season, went 92 yards on the kickoff, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead 14 seconds into the game. But the Colts got smart, telling Adam Vinatieri to squib-kick it when Hester was waiting deep and launch it when Hester was playing short. On the first squib kick, the Colts forced a turnover, and Hester was not heard from for the remainder of the game. Winner: Colts special teams.

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