MIAMI -- Tony Dungy, beaming and sporting an NFL champions cap, waded through the mob on the soggy field until he found his quarterback, Peyton Manning.
And there they stood in the rain, the winning Super Bowl coach and the MVP, finally savoring a moment that was a long time coming.
A wet and wild night of Super Bowl firsts brought Dungy, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to the top of the NFL with a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
A team built for indoors found its footing on a rain-soaked track. The Colts were far less sloppy, particularly their star quarterback, who proved he can indeed win the big game -- the biggest game.
"Peyton is a tremendous player, a great leader," Dungy said. "He prepares, he works, does everything you can do to win games and lead your team. If people think he needed to win a Super Bowl, that is just wrong. This guy is a Hall of Fame player and one of the greatest ever to play."
And now he is a champion. So is his coach.
"It's hard to put into words," said Peyton Manning, who hit 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "I'm proud to be part of this team. We stuck together, won this game for our leader, Tony Dungy."
Dungy became the first black coach to win the championship, beating good friend and protege Lovie Smith in a game that featured the first two black coaches in the Super Bowl.
"It feels great. I thought about that as I was on the podium," Dungy said. "Being the first African-American coach to win it. I have to dedicate 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."
Dungy's ring wasn't the only first. It also was the first rainy Super Bowl and the first time an opening kickoff was run back for a touchdown, when sensational Bears rookie Devin Hester sped downfield for 92 yards.
And not since the Buffalo Bills self-destructed with nine turnovers in losing to Dallas 14 years ago had there been so much messiness. The first half was marred by six turnovers, three for each team. Even football's most clutch kicker, Adam Vinatieri, missed a chip-shot field goal for the Colts, who botched an extra point attempt, too.
When much-maligned Bears quarterback Rex Grossman's wobbly pass was picked off and returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Kelvin Hayden with 11:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, it was over.
"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."
Chicago (15-4), which led the league in takeaways this season, finished with five turnovers, including two interceptions by Grossman.
"A frustrating loss," Grossman said. "There were definitely opportunities for us to take that game, and we didn't do it."
The Colts (16-4) will take it. It's their first title since the 1970 season, when they played in Baltimore.
It was confirmation of Peyton Manning's brilliance, even if he didn't need to be dynamic. The son of a quarterback who never got to the playoffs, Peyton Manning has been a star throughout his college career at Tennessee and his nine pro seasons with the Colts.
It also was a validation of Dungy's leadership. He helped build Tampa Bay, one of the NFL's worst franchises, into a contender before being fired after the 2001 season. The next year, the Bucs won the Super Bowl under Jon Gruden.
Sunday finally was Dungy's turn. As his players hoisted their coach on their shoulders, he switched his blue Colts cap for a white one that read "NFL champions." Dungy was carried from the sideline, then was lowered so he could share a long embrace and a handshake with Smith.
"I just told Lovie how proud I was of the moment," Dungy said
The Colts reached the pinnacle by winning four postseason games with a defense that made a complete turnaround in the playoffs.
And with a running game that perfectly complemented Peyton Manning, thanks to Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai, who combined for 190 yards -- 113 on 21 carries by Rhodes and 77 on 19 carries by Addai, who also caught 10 passes for 66 yards.
Chicago was denied its first Super Bowl title since its powerhouse 1985 team. These Bears could have used Da Coach, Sweetness and their buddies.
It rained from start to finish; there was even "Purple Rain" during halftime when Prince sang some of his signature songs. And though Vinatieri twice was a victim of the slop, he kicked three field goals.
"We knew handling the ball would be tough," Dungy said. "We showed we could win many ways."
Hester's spectacular return provided a stunning beginning -- and a severe jolt to the Colts. The local product and only rookie All-Pro this season pumped his arms to excite the crowd before the kickoff, then lifted the fans from their seats with an electrifying run on which he never was touched.
He barely touched the ball again as Indy went to squibbing kickoffs.
Leading 16-14 at halftime, the Colts spent half the third quarter with a march to Vinatieri's 24-yard field goal. Twice on the drive, Peyton Manning fell to the ground while throwing. But he completed them.
Grossman had it even worse on Chicago's initial possession of the second half, twice in a row slipping and getting sacked. Maybe he would have done better on icy turf.
Thomas Jones, forced to carry the Bears' entire rushing load when Cedric Benson was hurt in the first half, was Chicago's best player. But with Grossman ineffective, even inept, all the Bears managed in the second half was Robbie Gould's 44-yard field goal late in the third period.
After Hester's opening dagger, Peyton Manning tried to force a pass to Marvin Harrison in double coverage and was picked off by Chris Harris to spoil Indy's first possession, but the Colts struck back on their next series, converting three third-downs. The final one was the most important as Peyton Manning got everything on a long pass to the uncovered Reggie Wayne even though Tank Johnson had his hands on the quarterback. Wayne trotted into the end zone for a 47-yard score.
Then the rain ruined three straight plays.
Holder Hunter Smith dropped the snap on the extra point and Vinatieri couldn't get off a kick. Then Vinatieri, well aware of who was lurking deep, squibbed the kickoff to tight end Gabe Reid, who fumbled at his 35, with Tyjuan Hagler recovering for the Colts.
But Peyton Manning and Addai botched the handoff on the next snap and Chicago's Mark Anderson recovered, the third turnover in the first 8.5 minutes.
Couldn't anybody play this game?
Jones certainly could. He used a sharp cutback to break a 52-yard run, the longest of his career, to the Colts' 5, and Grossman found Muhammad in the front of the end zone for a 14-6 lead.
Jones finished with 112 yards rushing.
A fourth giveaway in the opening quarter, by Benson on his first carry before injuring his knee, didn't damage Chicago.
Vinatieri, who made two Super Bowl-winning kicks for New England, nailed a 29-yard field goal early in the second period, but was wide left from 32 yards at the end of the half.
Vinatieri still set a record with 49 postseason points.
Fulfilling his destiny
By Charles Robinson
February 4, 2007
MIAMI - Sitting in the back of a limousine almost nine years ago, Tony Dungy looked at Peyton Manning and saw this coming.
Carpooling to an awards show together in early 1998 - Peyton Manning on his way to take honors as college football's top quarterback, and Dungy as the NFL's coach of the year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dungy wasted little time sharing his admiration. Dungy knew Peyton Manning would be off the board by the time Tampa Bay used its 23rd overall pick, but he told the young quarterback over and over how the Buccaneers would love to have him.
"I thought he was going to be a championship-winning quarterback," Dungy would say a few years later. "Without a doubt in my mind."
Nine NFL seasons later, riding together again, Peyton Manning made Dungy a prophet.
With the Indianapolis Colts' 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI on Sunday, Peyton Manning can say goodbye to the never-won-the-big-one asterisk. And sayonara to the backhanded Dan-Marino-of-his-era compliment. The player who may one day be known as the most prolific passer in history finally has the most significant digit of his NFL career 1 a number which will be richly reflected by the Super Bowl ring on his finger, not to mention the game's MVP trophy on his mantel.
"I don't know, maybe now people will say, 'Well, if he doesn't win two in a row, it's not good enough,' " Dungy said in jest. "He prepares, he works, he does everything that you can do to win ballgames and lead your team. And if people think you have to win a Super Bowl to know that and validate it and justify it, that's just wrong. But he's done it, he's got that behind him, and I don't think there is anything you can say about this guy other than he's a Hall of Fame player and one of the greatest to ever play the game."
Certainly, Peyton Manning erased the one question mark that curled around his resume like a hangman's noose. Because while his Super Bowl rings always will be measured against the number won by his contemporaries, the point is that Peyton Manning finally has entered that championship argument.
Previously undercut in best-ever conversations that have included Joe Montana, Tom Brady, John Elway and Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning has gained the last ounce of career credibility that has always eluded him. Now, when the subject of his eye-popping numbers comes up, critics won't ask why he hasn't won a Super Bowl. Now, the question will be whether he's the best who ever played.
No more monkey on his back. No more deadly conjugate dragging on his stature like an anchor through the sand ? "he's a great player, but.."
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne succinctly summed it up.
"I guess everyone will have to find something else to write about," Wayne said.
And everyone will. Starting with Sunday night's rain-soaked performance, when Peyton Manning not only commandeered his second straight comeback win against a staunch defense but also did it by relying on his running game and a reborn defense. Consider that after throwing an interception to end Indianapolis' first series of the game, Peyton Manning completed 24 of his final 34 attempts. But only two of those attempts came in the fourth quarter, despite the Colts clinging to a 22-17 lead.
In reality, it was a play-calling trend that was nothing more than brilliant recognition at the line of scrimmage, where Peyton Manning saw the Bears' two safeties continually playing deeper than usual and Chicago's linebackers often backpedaling into coverage off the snap. The result was a passing game that was more about efficiency than supremacy: 247 passing yards, one touchdown and a 66-percent completion rate.
"The ball was coming out so quick," Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson said. "Most of the time, you could tell he had a receiver in mind. We got to him, but he was throwing the ball so fast. Once he gets his read, he's got such a fast release that sometimes it doesn't matter how close you get."
"We realized going into it how people were going to play us," Dungy said. "People played us differently than they had two years ago, differently than last year. And I think the playoffs were just a great kind of laboratory to show his whole game. It was thinking, getting us into the right place, running the ball, calling the plays, dropping the ball off and using everyone. He demonstrated his whole game in these playoffs. And it was pretty awesome to see."
Awesome, and a resounding exclamation point on a career. Not that Peyton Manning ever would admit it. Whether it was failing to win a championship in high school and the University of Tennessee or struggling to take over the grandest stage in the NFL, he always has maintained that such realities were things he never dwelled on. As Peyton Manning said once again Sunday night, "I don't play that game." But whether he wants to admit it or not, he has climbed to another plateau, a level of validation that will follow him to his grave and beyond.
Likewise, the newfound glory likely has opened a new dimension of expectation, where people undoubtedly will crave more. Peyton Manning sounds more than prepared to embrace the pressure.
"I think sometimes I've kind of seen that and observed that maybe a team or a quarterback kind of gets the pass, as I call it, after he wins the Super Bowl," Peyton Manning said. "That's not what I want. Next year my goal is to be a better quarterback, and our goal is to try to win another one."
And that opportunity will come soon enough. But for now, Peyton Manning will have some time to revel on the league's mountaintop, a place that, as Dungy thought so many years ago, was destined to welcome him.
Colts-Bears Super Bowl audience 2nd largest ever in XLI-year history of the game
By DAVID BAUDER
February 5, 2007
NEW YORK -- Peyton Manning had a lot of witnesses to his soggy super win, with the estimated 93.2 million viewers representing the second most-watched Super Bowl broadcast ever.
Only the 1996 Super Bowl between Dallas and Pittsburgh, which had 94.1 million viewers, had a bigger audience, according to Nielsen Media Research on Monday. Behind that 1996 game and the M-A-S-H series finale, Sunday's game was the third most-watched program in television history.
The presence of one of the game's most popular players in Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and a major-market team from Chicago undoubtedly juiced the ratings.
It was the highest-rated Super Bowl game since St. Louis-Tennessee in 2000. The viewership is higher this year even though the ratings are lower than in 2000 because there are more homes now with television sets.
The Colts beat the Bears 29-17 in a game played during a driving rainstorm in Miami. It was shown on CBS, a division of CBS Corp.
Last year's Super Bowl between Pittsburgh and Seattle drew 90.7 million viewers.
Despite the huge audience, the Super Bowl didn't provide much of a jolt to the CBS drama "Criminal Minds," which was given the choice time slot following the game. "Criminal Minds" was seen by 26.2 million viewers. While that's the biggest audience the second-year show has ever delivered, it dwarfs the 38.1 million people who saw "Grey's Anatomy" after ABC's telecast of the game last year.
According to another measuring service, the most-watched moment of the CBS broadcast wasn't Peyton Manning's lone touchdown pass, the interception and touchdown run by Kelvin Hayden or even Prince's electrifying halftime show. It was the Bud Light ad featuring Carlos Mencia and a language class, according to Tivo.
The digital recorder company's measurement includes not only people who watched the commercial live, but those who froze the set and went back and watched the commercial, said Todd Juenger, vice president and general manager for audience research.
More viewers with digital recorders tend to replay the Super Bowl commercials than game action perhaps because broadcasters offer plenty of replays of game action on their own, he said.
The most popular minute of the actual game, representing most Tivo replays, was after a personal foul was committed following an Indianapolis kickoff in the third quarter, he said.
Super Bowl 41 Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
By DAN WETZEL
February 5, 2007
The Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl 29-17 over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, but after nearly a week of hype, strange parties, pseudo celebs, endless game speculation, lots of sun, a torrential downpour, a purple halftime act and an MVP award to some guy named Peyton Manning, there were plenty of thumbs ups and thumbs downs, on and off the field.
Thumbs up: Tony Dungy
As Jimmy Cannon wrote of boxer Joe Louis, "He's a credit to his race, the human race."
Dungy will go down in history as the first African American coach to win the Super Bowl, and considering the obstacles and lack of opportunities, that accomplishment shouldn't be minimized. But can't people of every race take some pride in this guy?
There can't be a more decent, professional or humble head coach in football (although the Bears' Lovie Smith might be equal). The dignity and strength Dungy displayed in December 2005 when one of his sons committed suicide was an inspiration to all. And Sunday, he was at his best as a coach bringing his peaking team to full throttle and shedding any doubt that he could win the big one.
Thumbs down: Rex Grossman
Every wise guy in America was pushing him for MVP by the middle of the fourth quarter. Hard to argue that anyone did the Colts more good.
Purple Rain, indeed. Look, I have no idea why the Super Bowl often has halftime shows with people who haven't been big in a decade, but whatever. I'm sure some people were really into it.
I will say the scarf was the worst idea this side of starting Grossman, and Janet Jackson has got to wonder how Prince can get away with a phallic symbol of a guitar. But considering he had to perform live in the middle of a monsoon, I think he should be complimented for neither falling down nor electrocuting himself.
Three suggestions, though: 1) Where was Morris Day? 2) Where was Chappelle? 3) If they had just let the incomparable Florida A&M band perform, it would have been 100 times the show.
Thumbs up: Peyton Manning
He played well enough in these playoffs to get the job done, making big plays when they mattered most and playing within himself to demoralize four successive defenses. On Sunday, he was an efficient 25-for-38 for 247 yards with one touchdown and one pick. He is a popular and deserving champion, a guy who is tough to root against.
Best of all, by winning the MVP, Peyton Manning might get a little recognition and even his own commercial or two.
Thumbs up: Dominic Rhodes, Joseph Addai and Jeff Saturday
The two running backs (Rhodes and Addai) combined for 190 yards that controlled the clock, wore down Chicago's defense and allowed Peyton Manning to keep it simple amid the deteriorating conditions. Saturday anchored a bruising offensive line that should completely shed the Colts' image as soft. They took it right at the vaunted Bears.
We suppose there can't be tri-MVPs, but it wouldn't have been wrong to give it to all of them.
Thumbs up: Miami as a host city
There were single-digit temperatures and viciously colds winds in Illinois and Indiana on Sunday, which means the fans that got to go to South Florida for the game were treated (despite the rain) to mostly dream weather. Throw in the beaches, the nightlife and the impressive restaurants and you can see why Miami has hosted this event a record-tying nine times (New Orleans being the other most popular venue). Few will complain it's returning in three years. The Super Bowl should be in a glamorous place, right?
Thumbs down: Miami as a host city
Then again, the demand for hotel rooms and airline seats from corporate packages, pseudo celebs and wealthy fun seekers was so great that most good spots, no matter how overpriced, were snatched up long before the participants of the game were announced.
While the NFL loves the decadence and unbridled commerce that surrounds the game, it doesn't do much for real football fans. South Beach, the hub of activity this week, was virtually devoid of actual fans, replaced by outrageous largesse and the vapid party set. It might be nice that there are booming dance clubs there, but when it costs $3,000 to get a small table, who exactly got to enjoy them?
Most Bears and Colts fans were stuck in outskirt, suburban hotels, minus either the cash or the connections to get close to the glamour. For too many people at the Super Bowl, the game was of no concern.
Say what you want about past locations such as Detroit and Houston, but there is something positive about real fans overrunning a city and having access to the full experience, not stuck outside a velvet rope.
Thumbs down: Super Bowl celebrities
It was expected Miami would bring A-list celebs back to the Super Bowl, but other than the ones who already live there, this again was an almost horrific parade of has-beens or never-heard-ofs. Jack Nicholson isn't hitting one of these semi-cheesy Super Bowl parties.
Now if you want to see Ian Ziering and Pauly Shore walk around wishing it was still 1988 while trying to talk up one of LC's friends from "The Hills," then you're in luck. It actually is a good boost of self-esteem for the rest of America that your Super Bowl party was almost as starless as the ones in South Beach.
The NFL may be the sporting juggernaut of America, but it never can bring out the rich and famous like the NBA, as the Feb. 18 All-Star game in Las Vegas will prove.
Thumbs down: Alex Rodriguez
Speaking of Pauly Shore, he had a birthday party (perhaps his 53rd?) on Wednesday in Miami. We know this because it was so lame that Pauly himself personally invited us. Anyway, we attended, sheepishly being more interested in the unintentional comedy you'd expect out of a Pauly Shore birthday party. The laughs peaked when the lone celebrity attendee (other than Pauly) arrived, none other than A-Rod.
Rodriguez has a $252 million contract. He is a former MVP. He may one day be baseball's all-time home run king. Yes, he's terrible in the playoffs, but still ... Alex Rodriguez couldn't find a better thing to do on Wednesday of Super Bowl week?
Derek Jeter never would attend Pauly Shore's birthday party. If he happened to innocently be at the club and the party broke out, he'd sprint out of there like an infield single was at stake. A-Rod? He sat down and had dinner. It's really all you need to know about the New York Yankees.
Thumbs up: Shaq
Each year Maxim and Playboy spend, literally, millions trying to outdo each other in hosting the most extravagant Super Bowl party. But Shaquille O'Neal is the self-professed "King of South Beach," and not even Hef walks in and outdoes Shaq.
The Big Cruise Director rented out the Versace mansion, got the best group of celebrities to attend and got the vibe going so good that, according to thebiglead.com, Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens actually hugged.
Shaq, making the world a better place one drunken night on Ocean Drive at a time.
Even: Violent ads
There was a lot slapstick violence used as the punch line in a number of Super Bowl commercials. There was the guy who got wiped out by a meteor, the rock-paper-scissors match, a series of face slaps, even a jungle/office war.
The New York Times theorized that all the violence was the result of the war in Iraq. I'm serious. They printed this (at least online). Not that they offered any proof or experts who agreed, but hey, it's only the Times. It's not like it's supposed to be a serious newspaper or anything.
Now, this is not designed to make any statement on the war, but I'm guessing the trend in eye-gouging and shin kicking was probably just the work of unimaginative ad execs trying to appeal to young men.
But hey, what do I know? I'm now rattled at the idea there is a subliminal message to the Three Stooges episode I watched Saturday.
Thumbs down: Cedric Benson's injury
When the bruising Bears running back was knocked out early, Chicago's chances took a crushing blow. Lovie Smith wanted to win this game on the ground, with Grossman as his QB he had little choice, of course, and while Benson doesn't put up big numbers, he does deliver the kind of big hits that soften defenses for Thomas Jones. In this case, Benson was irreplaceable.
Thumbs up: The referees
They got ripped a year ago, and will be forever hated up in Seattle, for a series of questionable calls. But on Sunday, there were few mistakes as the officiating was hardly mentioned at all. That's the ultimate sign of success for the zebras.
Even: Adam Vinatieri
OK, so he won his fourth Super Bowl ring by booting three field goals. Big deal. The supposed most clutch kicker in NFL history botched a 36-yarder to end the first half sending people across the country with a Colts 9 square reeling and forced to listen to the lucky jerk with a 6 all half.
Thumbs down: Returning the opening kick for a touchdown
Didn't work for Ohio State in the BCS championship game and didn't work for the Bears on Sunday.
Thumbs down (at least from Baltimore): "The Colts of.. Indianapolis"
CBS' Jim Nantz said it with serious inflection when declaring them Super Bowl champs. Nice rub in the face of old-time Baltimore fans who still boycott the Mayflower moving company. Not that the City of Baltimore didn't then steal the Browns from Cleveland, which is why Cleveland hates Baltimore but loves Indy (my enemy's enemy is my friend) and, well, why this is essentially as confusing as the whole Sunni-Shiite situation.
Anyway, Nantz's call won't go over well in Baltimore. He just better hope Marlo Stanfield wasn't listening.
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