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-Super Bowl XLI: Chicago Bears vs Indianapolis Colts
By Chris Pokorny, PFCritics Writer
February 3, 2007
This Sunday, the final game of the season will take place at Super Bowl XLI when the Chicago Bears take on the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams have made it through grueling seasons, but only one will advance to capture the Lombardi trophy. The Colts have seen a major turnaround in their defensive efforts, and are coming off of an emotional come-from-behind home win against the New England Patriots. With all the confidence in the world, they are determined to win it all. On the other side of the field, the Chicago Bears have come so far, despite all of the doubters. Even Rex Grossman, who at times appeared to be a joke in the regular season, has pulled things together in the postseason. Which team will prevail in Super Bowl XLI? Make sure you don't miss a second of this game.

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Super Bowl XLI
Chicago Bears vs. Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, February 4th, 2007
Kickoff: 6:30pm EST on CBS

Super Bowl - Team Stats
Chicago Bears - #1 vs. #3 - Indianapolis Colts
- Overall Record: 15-3
Offense: 1st overall
(19th rush, 1st pass)
11th overall
(23rd rush, 3rd pass)
  - Overall Record: 15-4
Offense: 3rd overall
(18th rush, 2nd pass)
21st overall
(32nd rush, 2nd pass)
Position by Position Analysis
Quarterback vs. -Quarterback
Rex Grossman: Throughout the first several games of the season, Rex Grossman appeared to be having a breakout season. In fact, there was a point in which there was speculation that he would contend with guys like Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning, and LaDainian Tomlinson for the league's most valuable player award. And then...it started. After throwing four interceptions and fumbling the ball twice against the Arizona Cardinals back in Week 6, the controversy began. Many people wanted to give Grossman the benefit of the doubt, but quite frankly he didn't deserve it after nearly single handily blowing several games. Later in the season, Grossman dealt with tons of media pressure, including the possibility that veteran backup Brian Griese would take over his job. Come postseason, Grossman has settled the critics down through his first two games. Although he hasn't had the greatest of games, he has come through in most of the clutch opportunities. He was able to hit Rashied Davis down the field to set up a game-winning field goal against the Seahawks, and he had one key drive in the second half of the NFC Championship against the Saints. Still, unless he wins the Super Bowl, there will always be a fear from fans that he is capable of throwing a pick six on any given play.   Peyton Manning: He hasn't even won the Super Bowl, but it already feels as if the burden is off of his back. Granted, it's not like Manning has really had playoff games as dramatic as he did against the Patriots, but everyone knew that the Colts were not out of the game despite being down 21-6 at half time. Everyone knows that Manning is very capable of lighting it up during the regular season, so there's no sense in me summarizing the type of season he had as I did with Grossman. In the playoffs, overall, it hasn't been an enlightening statistical stretch of games for Manning, just like years past. However, the difference is that the Colts are putting points on the board. The defense has done its job for the most part, but Manning actually did a fine job on the road against an extremely tenacious Baltimore Ravens defense. Although he ended up lighting up the Patriots last week, he did go against two cornerbacks that guarded his primary receivers tight all game long. When Manning was hot and he finally needed a defensive stop in the playoffs, they rewarded him as well.
Running Backs vs. -Running Backs
Thomas Jones: The running ability of Thomas Jones has been the "X" factor. It would have seemed almost impossible for Grossman to do everything himself in the postseason, and relying on a stable running game was critical for Chicago's offense. Jones has come through for Chicago, scoring four touchdowns in just two postseason games. Jones deserves a lot of credit for playing well after there was a shot that second-year man Cedric Benson would be the team's starter to begin the season. Not to take anything away from Benson, but if Jones wasn't the Bears go-to-guy for most of the season, they could have lost a few more games.

Cedric Benson: Although Benson will look to compete for the starting role next season again, the role he is in now seems to suit him well with the Bears. I don't think he's capable of being the person that can wear down a defense, but the Bears haven't been losing much of a beat when he has entered games. And, even though his yards-per-carry average is lower than Jones, it's important that he's at least being somewhat productive until Jones is ready to re-enter the game.
  Joseph Addai: Strong play results in confidence, and that is what Peyton Manning has in his running backs. You could tell that early on in the season, Manning wasn't so sure if Dominic Rhodes could produce the same as Edgerrin James. He had even more questions about Joseph Addai, seeing as he was a first-year player. Addai never started a game in the regular season, but he continued to play well in backup duty week after week, before finally eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark. As a reward, the Colts have started Addai in all three playoff games. Addai has played on an average level for the playoffs, but don't discount the fact that he was able to punch it in from the two-yard line last week in the final minute of the game against the Patriots. That's where the confidence plays in.

Dominic Rhodes: The Colts never forget about an offensive weapon. Despite Rhodes being the "backup", he has received nearly just as many carries as Addai has in the postseason. The Colts usually give him several series in the third quarter, and his fresh legs usually result in a couple of big first-down runs to give the Colts some immediate momentum coming out of the half.
Receivers vs. -Receivers
Muhsin Muhammad: The veteran receiver has not really had a lot of balls come his way in the postseason, but there's always something people should never forget about him: he is an outstanding blocker. You may think, "What can one little block from a receiver do?" If Muhammad seals the corner for a guy like Thomas Jones, that could be the difference between being stuffed on third-and-one and getting a first down. In games like this, that is crucial.

Bernard Berrian: If you're looking for the playmaking receiver, look no further than Bernard Berrian. He put himself on the map right off the bat this season by making 50-yard touchdown receptions on a weekly basis. He had a drought when Grossman couldn't throw the ball accurately to save his life, but the connection between the two has been renewed in the postseason. Berrian has led the team in catches and receiving yards in both playoff games, and changed the momentum of last week's game with an amazing 33-yard touchdown snag.

Desmond Clark: The Bears tight end only has two catches in the playoffs, but he's still a viable threat in the passing game, especially down near the red zone. Like Muhammad, he can also make a difference when it comes to blocking.

Rashied Davis: Although he didn't have the type of season like Berrian did, all that matters is that he has come through in the postseason. He didn't have a catch last week, but he made several big receptions two weeks ago against the Seahawks and has been effective on endarounds.
  Marvin Harrison: The connection between Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison is one of the best ones in history, but one word can define the quality of Harrison's postseason play: disappointing. Harrison and Manning have clearly not been on the same page for the most part for three consecutive games, all of which happen to be in the postseason. Harrison is a Hall of Fame type of receiver, but he isn't making the difficult catches, he's not running the proper adjustments, and he is even dropping some balls that are right in his hands. To his credit, his two-point conversion catch last week was huge. Harrison needs to step his game up in the Super Bowl.

Reggie Wayne: Wayne has been more consistent than Harrison in the playoffs, capping off another solid season. In the end, I think having Reggie Wayne on the roster is a much better asset than Edgerrin James was. One little note though: how many Colts fans almost had a heart attack last week when Wayne lost the ball late in the game against New England last week, only to quickly snag it back in mid-air? I know there was a penalty on the play, but still, that had to make people cringe.

Dallas Clark: If you're looking for the go-to-guy in the receiving game, it has been Dallas Clark. After having doubts of even playing again this season late in the year, Clark has not missed a beat since returning in Week 17. Part of teams putting so much coverage on Harrison and Wayne has opened up the middle of the field more, where Clark has had several big plays.

Aaron Moorehead: Having Brandon Stokley back would only make the Colts offense more explosive, but instead they've had to settle with Moorehead. Although I prefer it if the Colts utilize their other top three receivers before Moorehead, it may still be worth it to try and take a shot downfield with him in single coverage if it's available.
-Defense vs. Defense
Defense: Yes, the Bears defense wasn't as "lights out" as people were expecting during the second half of the season. In the end though, Chicago's defense has been what has gotten them to the Super Bowl. The Bears forced three fumbles last week, all of which were absolutely devastating to the Saints. Brian Urlacher will be depended on heavily in this game to stop the Colts effective running game, as well as providing coverage on Dallas Clark. The Bears secondary has had its ups and downs, but they shouldn't get completely torched by Peyton. Being able to depend on a linebacker to cover Manning's primary weapon throughout the playoffs could be the difference if the Bears are able to come away with a win.   Defense: The state of the Colts defense has been one of the most bizarre stories you can have in the NFL. Within a span of three weeks, they have turned their reputation from completely embarrassing to more than respectable. Even last week, despite being eaten up by New England's offense early on, the defense forced enough punts in the second half to get Manning the ball back consistently with an opportunity to rally. The Colts defensive line will be salivating at having an opportunity to get to Grossman, who tends to make some bad decisions when under pressure. The Bears will be fully aware of that and will counter with the running attack, meaning Bob Sanders will have to play a key part in coming up and preventing the big play once again.
Special Teams vs. -Special Teams
Devin Hester: Rain is in the forecast, so Hester will have to be cautious to make sure he doesn't fumble the ball. The Colts gave up several big returns to Ellis Hobbs last week, and may attempt to kick away from the dangerous Devin Hester as much as possible.

Robbie Gould: It's tough to beat out Adam Vinatieri, but Robbie Gould has done a heck of a job this season for Chicago. Vinatieri has been tough to match, but based on this season, including the playoffs, Chicago will have just as much faith in Gould.

  Terrence Wilkins: The Colts return game has been a little better than average with Wilkins returning kicks this season. He typically offers a little more spark on his punt returns.

Adam Vinatieri: When it comes to kicking in the clutch, there is no one better than Vinatieri. He could very well be the sole reason the Colts have made it this far. Even though it doesn't seem like he had a major impact on last week's game, what would've happened to the Colts if he had missed one of his kicks? Disaster.
Final Analysis
Chicago Bears vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Bears have to make sure that whatever happens, Rex Grossman cannot be forced to put the team on his shoulders and be depended on to rally. Even win the Bears are in close situations, Grossman's throws should be resorted to what he is most effective at doing: passes slightly to the right of the middle of the field to whomever the slot receiver is, and deep balls down the field to Bernard Berrian. It seems basis, but it is simple what works for Grossman. Any time he tosses a ball short and towards the sideline, it seems as if the ball is prone to getting tipped at the line or taken for an interception.

Just like the past several games, the Bears will have to depend on both of their running backs to contribute to the team's offensive gameplan. Thomas Jones has been very effective for the Bears, and actually has more of a similar style to those running backs that have torn apart the Colts defense this year. Larry Johnson, Jamal Lewis, and Corey Dillon are all running backs that have their similarities, and all of them were handled well by Indianapolis' defense. The Bears should be a little cautious about screen plays, because the Colts defense is solid at forcing pressure while still covering the screen. If that happens, Grossman can't afford to make a poor decision.

The Bears defense plays well, but they are beatable. Brian Urlacher is a force, but Peyton Manning can pick just about anyone apart with the right game plan. Drew Brees was starting to have success last week against Chicago's defense, because it is certainly possible to find some holes in their defense. The key is that the Bears can force turnovers that change the outcome of a game, and in the end, that's what is going to win a football game.
  Peyton Manning will be four quarters away from a Super Bowl come kickoff, and he will have the ability to control his destiny and officially end all criticism of not being able to win the big game. After being put in rally mode last week, fans started to see why so many people love the way that Manning plays the game. Even when it seemed like his thumb may have been banged up, he came right out and threw about a fifty yard pass to Dallas Clark. One key in this game will be whether or not Marvin Harrison can get on the same page with Manning and record his first touchdown of the postseason.

Because of Manning's ability to stretch the field, the Colts running game can perform at the same level against anyone they face. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes will have to make sure they hold onto the football though, because the Bears are the type of team that will turn a fumble into a touchdown. One fact I haven't mentioned yet is Manning's ability to check down and throw to his running backs out of the backfield. If the Colts can run Dallas Clark up the field and take Urlacher out of the underneath zone, Manning will try and hit his running backs often.

If the Colts defense can get a lead, then look out. Of all teams, it just seems improbable that Grossman would be able to throw the ball effectively when the Bears are down by two possessions. If guys like Dwight Freeny and Robert Mathis know for sure than Grossman will drop back to pass, Grossman will be under pressure all day long. Unfortunately for Bears fans, if that happens and Grossman struggles, there's no sense in even trying to go to Brian Griese in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLI Prediction
Winner - Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning is finally going to win the big one. Of course, I also feel obligated to stick with the team I chose to win the Super Bowl before the season started. The Colts offense found its niche again last week, and their running game has been effective throughout the season. They will be able to neutralize the Bears defense from stopping them enough times, and in turn, Rex Grossman will not be able to keep pace. It should be a fairly competitive game, but Manning and the Colts should be able to control the tempo of the game. Final Score: Colts 24, Bears 13.

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