Super Bowl Preview

The GameplanColts Offense vs. Bears DefenseThe Colts opened up as the early favorite and I can’t blame anyone for picking them to win after the performance Man-ning had in leading them back from a historic 18-point deficit.Manning is capable of lead-ing his team to victory but needs a lot of help from his of-fensive line in shutting down the once again vaunted Bears defense that caused so many problems for the Saint’s Drew Brees.He will also need a solid game from rookie running back Joseph Addai in order to open up play action passing op-portunities down the field.But the Bears defense that had been just average for the last part of the season really stepped up against the Saints after a week of hearing how they weren’t good enough. They will need a repeat perfor-mance in order to shut down the Colts.Bears Offense vs. Colts DefenseWhen Chicago has the ball it will be all about the running game. The two-headed monster that is Thomas Jones and Ced-ric Benson ran all over New Or-leans for 196 combined yards.The Colts run defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher during the playoffs after allow-ing every team during the sea-son at least 100 yards.So what changed? Some say the return of Sanders has had a big effect but a lot of it has to do with opponents getting away from the running game. Unfor-tunately, for the Colts, that will not happen against the Bears. Expect Grossman to hand it off to his backfield mates at least 45 times during the game.If the Bears want to win they must get their running game going in order to keep Manning off the field. The run-ning game will also open up play action passing for Gross-man who can be extremely ef-fective at finding his receivers, especially Bernard Berrian, down the field for big plays.Indy’s defense must try to stop the run and put the ball in Grossman’s hands and force him to make mistakes. The Bears lose when Grossman turns the ball over.If Grossman is asked to do more than just control the game, the Bears could be in real trouble. Conversely if the Colts cannot protect Manning and allow the turnover happy Bears defense to run all over the field it could be a long day for Indy fans.Special TeamsThe X-factor in this game could be special teams. Both teams have almost automatic kickers in the Bear’s Robbie Gould and the Colt’s Adam Vi-natieri (who, you will remem-ber won two Super Bowl titles for the Pats on last second kicks).The Colts had a lot of trou-ble against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game cov-ering kicks. The Patriot’s Ellis Hobbs took six kicks back for a combined 220 yards.Against the Bears, the Colts must be careful on kickoffs because Devin Hester (who returned a record six kicks for touchdowns this season) loves the big stage and if he is given the smallest seam he will take it to the house.Against the Saints the Bears used great field position thanks to punter Brad Maynard, who pinned the Saints inside their 20-yard line four times.Welcome to MiamiIf the Colts have to drive down the whole field against the Bears defense it bodes well for the team from the Windy City.This has been a long time coming.The first trip to the Super Bowl for the India-napolis version of the Colts franchise is led by a quar-terback and coach always marked by their inability to win the big games.It started back in col-lege when Peyton Manning shattered every Tennessee record but could not lead the Vols to a national title. It was only made worse the year after Manning gradu-ated when junior Tee Mar-tin lead Tennessee to an undefeated season and the 1998 National Champion-ship.But Manning is not alone on the Colts. After coach Tony Dungy left the Tam-pa Bay Buccaneers, John Gruden took over and led the Bucs to a Super Bowl XXXVII championship and ever since Dungy has had the title of the coach that can build a great team but never win the big game.On the Chicago sideline you will find fans who have been eagerly waiting the past 21 years for another Super Bowl berth.These fans also hold their breath every time the Bears offense steps on to the field because of Rex Grossman, who some call the worst Super Bowl quar-terback ever. Whether he is the worst ever we will have to wait until Feb. 4 to de-cide, but most inconsistent is a title that he is the un-disputed champion of.Even with the inconsis-tency of their quarterback and constant questions, coach Lovie Smith has kept the ship steady and in becoming the first black coach to reach the Super Bowl (only to be joined a couple of hours later by Dungy), he has transcend-ed sports on his way to the history books.At the beginning of the season this matchup seemed like the sure bet for the Super Bowl. The Colts and Bears were the last remaining undefeated teams and both looked un-stoppable; the Bears de-fense was flying around the field making plays and their offense was playing possessed, while in Indy the Colts offense was its usual juggernaut self but their defense was the real surprise as they actually were able to stop people.But then everyone came back to Earth.Lineman Tommie Har-ris and safety Mike Brown suffered season ending in-juries that left huge holes up the middle of the Bears defense and the offense finally realized who they were.The Colts offense began to sputter as their defense was exposed when safety and emotional leader Bob Sanders went down with an injury.While the teams finished the season a combined 25-7 all the experts were betting against them.Just the way these teams like it.The Colts went on a tear against the run, shutting down two of the best run-ning backs in the league (KC’s Larry Johnson and Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis) on the way to their dramat-ic come from behind victo-ry in which Manning finally exorcised his demons and defeated the evil empire that is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.The Bears, on the other hand, were written off from the start of the playoffs be-cause of their suddenly po-rous defense and the incon-sistency of Grossman (the only man on the planet who has any idea of the criti-cism Manning endures).But after just getting by Seattle on a last second field goal, Chicago shel-lacked “America’s Team,” the high-powered New Or-leans Saints to romp into the big game.When the teams take the field in Miami all the specu-lation will be set aside and the players will have a chance to make history.After two weeks of be-ing bombarded with ques-tions Grossman and Man-ning will be ready to lead their teams while Dungy and Smith will have done all the preperation pos-sible.It’s time to play ball.~Staff Predictions~Dakota Rubin – Bears 31, Colts 26Austin Danforth – Bears 30, Colts 27Joannna Benjamin – Bears 35, Colts 28Josh Appelbaum – Colts 31, Bears 24Nick DeCaro – Colts 28, Bears 23Kat Williams – Bears 24, Colts 17