Peyton Manning's Greatest Games - #3

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Game #3 takes us back to a game we all remember:  February 4, 2007, where the Colts battled the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.  This was the first time the Indianapolis version of the Colts had made the Super Bowl, and the first time since Super Bowl V that the Colts franchise had played there.  Ironically enough, that game was played in Miami as well, although that was in the now demolished Orange Bowl.  The Colts came into the Super Bowl having come from 18 down in the AFC Title game, and the Bears had put away the Saints in a cold and snowy game in Chicago.

The theme of the two weeks between the games was the same as it had always been around Peyton Manning:  Sure, he finally won a "big game" in his previous game, but could he win "The Big Game."  It was all about the great Bears' defense, and how the Colts couldn't win outdoors in the elements.  Manning was no match for Urlacher and the "Monsters of the Midway."

I don't think it is necessary to give a blow - by - blow account of the game, as we all can probably replay the game in our heads play by play.  What I'll do is hit some spots in the game where Manning showed why he is so great, and why this is #3 on the list of his greatest games.

On the Colts second possession, down 7-0, Manning and the Colts faced 3 3rd down plays.  The first, 3rd and 2, Manning found Marvin Harrison for 7 yards and a first down.  This was a great confidence booster for the offense, especially in the wet and soggy conditions.  They then converted a 3rd and 4 with a 6 yard pass to Dallas Clark.  Three plays later, the Colts faced a 3rd and 10 from the Colts 47.  The pocket had collapsed, and Manning was grabbed by Tank Johnson (see picture).  You can also see in the picture that Reggie Wayne was breaking away from the defense, and was wide open.  Manning flung the ball down the field, it was caught by Wayne, and the Colts were on the board.  It was an unbelievable effort by Manning to stay up, and an even better play to throw the ball 35 yards down field off of his back foot.

Manning struggled throughout the rest of the quarter, but drove the Colts down for 10 points in their next 2 possessions.  The Bears were using the same defense used by the Ravens earlier in the playoffs, which was to play the 2 safeties way back, and stop the big play.  At this point in the game, Manning started taking what the defense gave to him, and they methodically moved down the field.  This, in my opinion, is what got the Colts over the top in 2006.  He became very patient, took what defenses gave him, and the offense was more succussful.

Manning led the Colts into field goal range in the final 2 minutes of the half, only to have Vinatieri miss a field goal as time expired.  At halftime, the Colts were up 16-14, although they had outplayed the Bears on both sides of the ball.  Here are his halftime stats:

Comp Att Yds Y/A TD INT Rating
17 26 193
7.4
1
1
84.3

In a game with 4 fumbles already at halftime, Manning played pretty well.  The first drive of the second half saw the Colts go 12 plays, converting again on 2 3rd down plays with passes to Utecht and Addai.  The drive ended with a FG by Vinatieri to go up 5.  Manning and the Colts had taken 7:34 off of the clock to start the half.  This after having the ball the last 1:18 of the first half, the Bears had not had the ball in almost an hour of real time, thanks to the extra long halftime.  This opening drive put the Bears at a huge disadvantage, and their defense was now starting to suck wind.  It was a great drive, even though it only yielded 3 points.

The Colts tacked on another FG, thanks to Dominic Rhodes, on their next possession.  After the Hayden Interception, putting the Colts up by 12, the game seemed pretty much in hand.  The Colts defense had stuffed the Bears all day, and it seemed rather improbable the Bears could score 2 TDs, unless they were on special teams.  The Colts ran out the clock on a couple drives, all while starting the celebration of a World Championship.  Manning did a great job of game management, since they really didn't need his passing at the end.  His final stats:

Comp Att Yds Y/A TD INT Rating
25 38 247
6.5
1
1
81.8

In terms of statistics, this was a sub-par game for Manning, especially when compared to all the other games on this list.  However, this is one of those games that you need to look past the stats to see how well he played.  He did win the MVP.  I think we've become so used to amazing statistical games, that games where he does the little things, while not having the gawdy stats, seem like he played poorly.  He most certainly did not on this night.  Manning shut up every critic he's ever had (Bill Simmons never wrote an article on Super Bowl XLI).  He now was not mentioned in the same breath as Dan Marino.  He got his ring, with an MVP to boot.  A truly great game by Peyton Manning, the 3rd greatest game in his career.

Here are some video highlights from the game:

Here is the NFL.com Gamebook:

Our very own BigBlueShoes recap of the game:

Here is an article looking more in depth into Super Bowl XLI:

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