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- Super Bowl XLI: Will Manning finally free himself?

Matt Bathrick January 31, 2007
Matt Bathrick

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As Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning prepares for the biggest game of his life, he knows there is one question that overweighs any other question going into Super Bowl Sunday:
Can he finally get this monkey off his back?
But that question isn't completely fitting, because I don't just see a monkey. He's carrying a gorilla.
Though every season of Manning's nine year career has been spectacular, he has been labeled "the guy who can't win the big one." He has seven 4,000 yard seasons and a 94.4 career passer rating, yet he is criticized every year for folding under pressure when it matters most. On Sunday, February 4, he will finally get the chance to silence his critics when his Indianapolis Colts take on the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. It will be no easy task.
Not only will he be facing more pressure from the media than he's ever seen in his life, he will be facing a Chicago defense that has seems dominant.
"The Bears defense gets more impressive every time I turn on the film." says Peyton Manning. "You see a lot of offensive teams punting against that defense. It's not the scheme; it's the players. So many players to think about coming from all different angles."
This Bears defense, led by All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher, has allowed only 255 points in 2006, ranking third. They led the NFL with 44 takeaways -- 24 interceptions and 20 fumble recoveries. They also have 40 regular season sacks.
The Bears won't be taking Manning lightly either.
"He runs that offense better than anybody could run it," Chicago Bears defensive end Alex Brown says. "He knows what the defense is going to do before they actually do it. He could probably look over and tell the cornerback, 'Well, you're not supposed to be there. You should be here.' He's that good. He understands the game that well. He understands defenses that well."
Manning also has an extra boost of confidence after beating the quick defense of the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The Colts were down 21-3 in the first half. But Peyton led a fourth-quarter comeback that may suggest he has overcame the hurdle of performing under pressure in clutch sccenarios. He ended the game 27 of 47 with 349 yards.

Rex Grossman, the quarterback leading the Bears against the Colts, may be the most inconsistent QB in the league. This season he's had seven games with passer ratings over 100.0, and five games with ratings under 40.0, including a 0.0 rating against Green Bay. Grossman will be playing this game with nothing to lose.

Also to be noted, Colts coach Tony Dungy and Bears coach Lovie Smith are making this the first Super Bowl in which two black head coachers face each other. Meaning also it will be the first Super Bowl winning team with a black head coach. That aside though, this will be two great coaches leading two great teams into this highly anticipated matchup. Super Bowl XLI will be played at Dolphin Stadium in Miami on Sunday February 4, starting 6:30 PM ET on CBS.

Chicago's rookie KR Devin Hester will be a huge factor in this game. Even if he doesn't return a kick for a touchdown, he will still give Grossman and the rest of the Bears' offense great field position all day long. I'm expecting RB's Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones to run all over the Colts defense. Colts' Manning won't have a bad game, but I think the running game will get shut down, and Manning's efforts won't be enough. Sorry Peyton, make friends with the ape on your back yet another year.
Bears win a close game 28-24.

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