Peyton Manning may finally be able to shake the title of â€œCHOKER!â€
Many people have resisted calling Manning an all-time great quarterback because he hasnâ€™t been able to win the big game and get to the Super Bowl. That changed after the Colts defeated the New England Patriots to advance to Super Bowl XLI.
This Super Bowl will feature one of this yearâ€™s best defenses against this generationâ€™s best offense. The Colts offense has been piling up record-breaking statistics for the past five years, but the team has always been held back by its mediocre defense. Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison became the NFLs all-time leading combination in passing touchdowns this season.
It looked like the defense would cost Manning his shot at a Super Bowl yet again after the Jaguars ran over the Colts with 375 rushing yards in the final weeks of the regular season, but the return of Bob Sanders has turned things around for the Colts in the playoffs.
Sanders has played Superman for the Colts in the playoffs. He has single-handedly improved the leagueâ€™s worst rushing defense. He missed most of the regular season with a knee injury.
He returned for the start of the playoffs and helped the Colts hold both Larry Johnson and Jamal Lewis under 100 yards rushing. Johnson and Lewis are two of the NFLs top rushers.
While the quarterback is the strength of the Colts, it is the weakness of the Chicago Bears. Rex Grossman started out the season as one of the top quarterbacks in the league but that great start was just a mirage.
Grossman had the third worst interception total in the NFL with 20 and had a fumbling problem for much of the season. He had a passer rating of under five in one game.
The Bears reached the Super Bowl because of defense and a little stick of dynamite known as Devin Hester. The Bears have the third best defense in the NFL. They only allowed 15.9 points per game. When Grossman turned the ball over, the defense was able to pick him up and keep the other team out of the end zone.
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is the defensive leader for the Bears. He led the team with 142 tackles and was selected to the Pro Bowl. He stops the other team from getting yards on the ground.
Hester set an NFL record for returns for touchdowns in a single season with six. The former Miami Hurricane star has great speed and has turned games in the Bears favor with a punt or kick return many times this season. If the Bears are to win this game, it will be because of a big play by number 23.
Enough discussion about the participating teams; letâ€™s get to a prediction. Although the Bears have the third best overall defense, their pass defense was only ranked 11th out of 32 teams. This plays right into the Colts strength.
The Colts have the second and third leading receivers in the NFL in Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Harrison had 1,366 yards while Wayne compiled 1,310. Team them with Manning, and that spells disaster for the Bears.
The Colts passing game will not be the demise of the Bears though. The fall of the Bears will be because of Grossman. He gets nervous and panics when he gets pressure in the pocket. When someone gets in his face, he makes mistakes. Whether itâ€™s a costly interception or a fumble on a sack by all pro defensive end Dwight Freeney, Grossman will turn the ball over.
My final prediction, the Colts passing game and Grossmanâ€™s mistakes are too much for the Bears defense to overcome. The Colts win the game 31-17.