Super Bowl XLI Preview!
DA BEARS: First of all, let’s get something straight: Rex Grossman is not the worst quarterback to ever play in the Super Bowl©®. Come on, people: he hasn’t even played in the Super Bowl yet. After the game is over, then he could be the worst quarterback to ever play in the Super Bowl.
The comparison I’ve been hearing most is with the 2000 Ravens, who rode a stout defense and tolerated an unremarkable Trent Dilfer to a Super Bowl©® Championship. This is an incredibly stupid comparison for two reasons: First, the 2006 Bears are nowhere near the quality of the 2000 Ravens defense. As strong as they started, injury and attrition have them no better than above-average by now. Secondly, Dilfer was an established, if unspectacular NFL starter for several years in Tampa before coming to Baltimore. Dilfer wasn’t going to single-handedly win games for you, but he wasn’t going to lose them for you either.
I don’t know what the heck to do with Sexy Rexy. For six or seven games this year he has been amazing, especially with the touch on his deep ball. For every other game, he has looked like some combination of Heath Shuler, Akili Smith, and Kip from Napoleon Dynamite under center. He’s not getting a lot of help from a thin receiving corps of Mushin Muhammad and, um, not a whole lot else. To his credit, he has proved his detractors (such as, for example, me) wrong so far in this postseason with solid, Dilfer-worthy play. But his problem on Sunday is not going to be his own ability; it’s going to be the Indianapolis blitz. If I know that Grossman panics under pressure, so does Tony Dungy, and Dungy knows what to do about it.
If the Bears win this game, it’s not going to be Grossman playing the hero. It’s going to running backs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, and it’s going to be some canny (and lucky) defenders creating turnovers. Man, I love running backs. Frankly, some amazing, game-changing turnovers are the Bears’ only hope to win the Super Bowl©®.
DA COLTS: The Colts’ defense gave up 173 rushing yards per game in the regular season. That’s bad. However, they gave up only 72 rushing yards per game in the playoffs. That’s good. In fact, it’s exceptional. But I can’t help but view the Colts’ run D in the same light as Grossman’s good passing games: how can you tell what’s trend and what’s aberration?
As much as I love the Bears’ RBs, I think I love the Colts’ combo just as much. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes are set up much like the Bears’ combo, Benson/Addai as the pounding, punishing downhill runner and Jones/Rhodes as the slashing change-of-pace. Addai is more than capable of another 4 TD performance. But don’t kid yourself: the Colts’ offense is all about Peyton Manning.
I just can’t imagine this guy losing on Sunday. The Bears’ defense has had so many key injuries that I’m frankly amazed that they’ve made it here, and Manning has had two weeks to learn every tendency and every weakness. It helps that he has an amazing corps of receivers. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne speak for themselves, but it’s H-back Dallas Clark whom I see having a big game across the middle of the field, where the Bears’ defense is thinnest.
DA GAME: The seven-point line in favor of the Colts has been pretty consistent since the Conference Championships. I have high hopes that this is going to be more Rams-Patriots and less Bucs-Raiders. Two or three turnovers by the Bears’ ball-hawking defense could keep it close, but I’m just totally convinced that this game is Peyton Manning’s.
The day, however, is Lovie Smith’s and Tony Dungy’s. Maybe this will finally be the event that gets the proportion of black coaches in the NFL closer to the proportion of black players. This is a great day. I share the sentiment of Herm Edwards, close friend to both coaches: “I'm rooting for both of them. Both of them have already won. They're both already champions.”
Super Bowl©® XLI: Colts 31, Bears 17.
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