In honor of the ten-year anniversary of the Indianapolis Colts winning Super Bowl XLI the team is hosting a reunion this weekend. Leading up to the halftime ceremony on Sunday, Stampede Blue will be taking a look back this week at that incredible 2006 season - wrapping up today with the Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears.
On February 4, 2007, the Indianapolis Colts were finally playing in the Super Bowl. In their 23rd season in Indy and their 9th season with Peyton Manning, they were finally playing on the game’s biggest stage. You couldn’t have scripted it any better, right?
Actually, for the Colts, you could have. On Super Bowl Sunday a steady rain descended on Miami, marking the first game in Super Bowl history that would be played in the rain. One would figure that a passing team like the Colts would be impacted more than the Bears, but on that rainy night the Colts showed everyone that they had a quarterback who had prepared for the circumstances, a run game that could dominate the game, and a defense that could win it.
The first one was obvious entering the game: nobody could out-prepare Peyton Manning, and it turns out that’s even true when it comes to a rainy game. The story goes that Manning and center Jeff Saturday would practice the wet ball drill in practice, just so that they would be prepared in case it was needed. And while the Colts had their fair share of turnovers, it wasn’t because of the quarterback/center exchange.
“[The well ball drills in practice] sure paid off in that Super Bowl because he and I had zero exchange problems,” Manning told FOX59’s Mike Chappell this week. “We were under center quite a bit in that game, certainly in the shotgun as well. But had zero exchange problems. If I recall, Chicago had one or two exchange problems as far as quarterback-to-center. I know there [were] a decent amount of fumbles in the game, but there were no problems for me and Jeff quarterback-to-center.”
The game didn’t get off to a great start, however, as Devin Hester took the opening kickoff 92 yards for a score, putting the Bears up 7-0 before either offense even took the field. It could have been a deflating moment for the Colts, but this was the team that had overcome an 18-point deficit in the AFC Championship game two weeks earlier, so 7-0 wasn’t as daunting. Instead, the Colts simply went to work... and on the Colts’ first possession, Manning’s pass for Marvin Harrison was picked off. Things weren’t starting out too well for Indy.
The defense settled in, however, forcing a Bears punt off of the turnover, and then the offense got going as Manning, with a defender draped around him, launched a bomb to a wide open Reggie Wayne for a 53-yard touchdown. Even that score wasn’t without error, however, as a fumbled snap on the extra point due to the rain resulted in the Colts still trailing 7-6. The Bears fumbled the kickoff and then Manning fumbled the ball right back, leading to another Bears score as Rex Grossman hit Muhsin Muhammad for a four-yard score. At the end of the first quarter, it was the Bears leading 14-6 after a rough start for the Colts.
It was there that the running backs really went to work, however, and they wouldn’t let up. The Colts embarked on a very balanced offensive attack, with Manning hitting key completions through the air and Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai hammering away on the ground. Manning would complete 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown with one pick en route to the MVP honors (which was as much due to the momentous event in his career as it was his play), but it was the duo of Rhodes and Addai that played just as big of a role. The Colts ran the ball 42 times for 191 yards and a touchdown, led by the veteran Dominic Rhodes, the team’s number one back, who rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and added a reception for eight yards. Joseph Addai, the rookie who had rushed for 1,000 yards in the regular season, rushed for 77 yards on 19 carries and also led the team with ten receptions for 66 yards. Of the Colts’ 430 total yards of offense, Rhodes and Addai combined for 264 of them (61.4%). The Colts controlled the football for 38:04 in the game and proved that they could get it done on the ground as well, out-rushing the Bears and proving to be a huge part of Indy’s victory in the rain.
An Adam Vinatieri field goal in the third quarter was later followed up by a one-yard rush by Dominic Rhodes, giving the Colts a 16-14 lead heading into halftime. In the third quarter, Adam Vinatieri hit two field goals to extend Indy’s lead to 22-14 in the third quarter. A Robbie Gould field goal near the end of the quarter cut it to a five point game (22-17) entering the final frame. And that’s when the defense provided the dagger.
The Colts’ defense had fallen apart late in the regular season and was one of the worst in the league, but they had completely turned things around in the playoffs (sparked by the return of Bob Sanders). They shut down the Chiefs offense and their potent rushing attack in the Wild Card Round, and then they dominated the Ravens offense in the Divisional Round. They got beat by Tom Brady for 34 points in the Conference Championship game, but Manning and the offense stepped up while the defense provided the clincher via Marlin Jackson’s interception. And now, on Super Bowl Sunday, the defense once again stepped up in a huge way to complete a magical postseason run. The Colts held the Bears to just 265 yards of offense, recorded five turnovers, and allowed Chicago to convert just 3 of 10 third down tries. It was a very impressive performance by Indianapolis, and with it a one-score game early in the fourth quarter they provided the clincher.
On the Bears’ first drive of the final frame, Rex Grossman lobbed a pass deep down the right sideline intended for Muhsin Muhammad that was intercepted by Kelvin Hayden. Hayden somehow managed to stay in bounds and then started to return it, and with plenty of Colts defenders there to block for him he took it untouched into the end zone for a 56-yard pick-six. That gave the Colts a 29-17 lead, and on the very next drive another Grossman pass was intercepted by Bob Sanders. The defense had, once again, essentially clinched the game.
Eventually, the clock hit zero and the Colts had won the Super Bowl! The players hoisted Tony Dungy on their shoulders and carried him off the field, celebrating the coach’s first Super Bowl win as a head coach - which was also the first Super Bowl win by an African-American head coach. Peyton Manning was named the game’s MVP, as he had finally won the big game in his ninth season in the league - but it was Dominic Rhodes who got the trip to Disney World. It was an all-around impressive performance by Indianapolis, with Manning, the run game, and the defense all stepping up to bring a world championship to Indianapolis.
In the years to follow the Colts would once again be reminded how big of an accomplishment that Super Bowl victory was. Early playoff heartbreak followed in 2007 and 2008, and they then made it to the Super Bowl in 2009 before falling short in the fourth quarter. In 2010 the Colts experienced another playoff disappointment, and unbeknownst to anyone at the time that was the end of the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis, bringing one of the most remarkable runs in NFL history to a close. It would take Manning until his final season in the league, 2015, to finally hoist that Lombardi Trophy again (this time as a member of the Denver Broncos), while the Colts still haven’t been able to repeat that feat. The Colts and their fans should know more than anyone just how hard it can be to win Super Bowls, and that’s what makes the 2006 playoff run so special and so magical. It stands as the crowning point of the franchise’s greatest era, and that’s what the Colts will celebrate this Sunday.