The Super Bowl is just 11 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 11 years ago to honor this not-so-significant occasion!
South Florida hosted Super Bowl XLI on February 4, 2007. The game pitted the NFC champion Chicago Bears against the Indianapolis Colts of the American Football Conference.
Chicago Bears 11 Years Ago
The 2006 Chicago Bears were coached by Lovie Smith. Smith in his third year completed his rebuild project with an outstanding 13-2 record in meaningful games. The offense was 2nd in points scored and 3rd in points allowed. Rookie Devin Hester returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns and placekicker Robbie Gould was the best in the NFL.
The Bears blew out several opponents during the regular season, but it was an incredible comeback win that stood out. It was a Monday Night game in Arizona. The mediocre Cardinals jumped in front 23-3 before Chicago led by Hester stormed back. After the game, Cardinals’ coach Dennis Green was in no mood to salute the Bears. Rather, he exclaimed about the Bears, “They are what we what thought they are, but we let them off the hook! If you want to crown them, crown [them.]”
Green’s viewpoint was shared by many. Unheralded QB Rex Grossman, RB Thomas Jones and WR Bernard Berrian were the key players on the offense. The Bears were thought of as strong on defense only. Sure enough, they had four Pro Bowlers including first-team All-Pro Brian Urlacher.
Grossman Does the Job
In their first playoff game, they were put to the test by the defending NFC champion Seahawks. Grossman and the offense were on point in a 27-24 comeback win. Gould tied in the game with four minutes left in regulation and won it four minutes into the overtime.
In the NFC championship game, the Bears faced another challenge in the Cinderella New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees hit Reggie Bush for a dramatic score to cut the lead to 16-14. However, the Bears dominated the fourth with a safety and three touchdowns. The 39-14 propelled Chicago to their first Super Bowl in 21 seasons.
Indianapolis Colts 11 Years Ago
Peyton Manning and the Colts came into 2006 with something to prove. They were clearly the best team of the decade without a championship to their credit. Three consecutive 12-win seasons resulted in three consecutive playoff losses to the eventual Super Bowl champions. In ’06, Tony Dungy’s squad finished 12-4, but that was only good enough for the third seed.
The Colts’ powerful offense featured Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne and Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison. On defense, safety Bob Sanders was the NFL’s DPOY. They also had perhaps the best pass rusher in the league in Dwight Freeney. However, the Colts struggled against the run in the regular season.
Colts’ Defense Takes Over
That would change in the playoffs. In the Wild Card round, Indianapolis faced Kansas City after a series of miraculous events got the Chiefs in. Peyton Manning had a terrible game as he threw three first half interceptions. The Chiefs could not take advantage. Indy took a 16-0 lead en route to a lackluster 23-8 win. The one great thing for the Colts in this game: They held the Chiefs to 126 total yards. They only surrendered 32 yards rushing to Pro Bowler Larry Johnson.
In the divisional round, again Manning struggled and again, the Colts’ defense bailed him out. Adam Vinatieri also deserves a game ball for his five field goals in the Colts’ 15-6 victory over Steve McNair and the Baltimore Ravens. The next day, the Patriots shocked the 14-2 San Diego Chargers setting up the showdown all of America was hoping for.
AFC Championship Classic
The underdog Pats jumped in front thanks to some daring play calls and an Asante Samuel interception return. The Colts scored twice in the third quarter, though, to tie it at 21. New England went back ahead on a Jabar Gaffney touchdown. The Colts tied it again. The Pats kicked a field goal. Indy tied it again. The Patriots got another field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to go up 34-31 then held the Colts to a three-and-out. On the possession, Manning injured his thumb.
The Patriots were one first down away from knocking out the Colts yet again. Suddenly, they made mistakes in the clutch. A silly penalty and a bad route by Troy Brown forced a New England punt. Manning led his team downfield effortlessly. Addai scored the go-ahead touchdown and Indy clinched the ball game on a Marlin Jackson pick. Peyton Manning finally defeated Tom Brady in a meaningful ball game.
Colts Win in A Downpour
From there, the Super Bowl was easy. But, not before the Bears got a highlight for the ages. The incomparable Hester returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. In a steady downpour, Manning was not at his best in the Super Bowl, but he was good enough. The Colts transformed a 14-6 deficit into a 22-14 lead.
Late in the third, Chicago kicked a field goal to cut lead to five. They got the ball right back and moved to around midfield. Then, Kelvin Hayden made the play to give the city of Indianapolis their first Super Bowl championship. He intercepted Grossman and raced 56 yards on the soggy turf for the score and a 29-17 victory. This was not a marvelous Super Bowl by any standards. However, it was a marvelous accomplishment for Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning.
Manning would win another Super Bowl as a member of the Denver Broncos when he was way past his prime and would lose two others. However, this game was his crowning moment as a professional. As for Chicago, they came very close to getting back to the Super Bowl following the 2010 season. But, they lost at home to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Tomorrow, we will talk about the phenomenal 2007 Patriots and the team that beat them in the Super Bowl!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_bills