Super Bowl XLI was unique. It was the only time in NFL history that the Super Bowl was played in the rain. At that time, the rain was so heavy and so steady that it made it extremely difficult for either team to do what they wanted to do offensively.
Heading into the game, the storyline was that one of the NFL’s best defenses was about to face off against one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses. Additionally, the storyline was that the Chicago Bears were a tough outdoor football team while the Indianapolis Colts were a soft, finesse football team with a timing offense.
No matter the outcome and no matter what kind of revisionist history fans from other teams will try to tell you today, the reality is that a rain-laden, outdoor Super Bowl should have favored the Bears a lot more than the Colts. I would say that the odds makers would have even been influenced by the weather in this circumstance and that it wouldn’t have been good for Indianapolis.
The game started with all-world returner Devin Hester running the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. There is little doubt the field conditions helped Hester on this play and that going down seven points to start a Super Bowl is never going to increase the likelihood that the team who is immediately trailing has a chance to win. Not too dissimilar from this year’s blizzard bowl in Buffalo, there was a decent chance that the running game would be the primary weapon for both teams. It would also seemingly be more difficult for the Colts to run the ball to a victory against the Bears defense than it would for Chicago to do the same against the “soft” Colts defenders.
What happened after the initial run back could be described as hard-nosed running, a handful of big plays and a ton of turnovers. It was a soup bowl and there were numerous fumbles, including failed quarterback-center exchanges, and neither team was able to really pull away from the other. Just when the Colts would get the chance to get some cushion on offense, there would be a turnover.
All of this came to a head early in the fourth quarter. Indianapolis had only a five-point lead, and Chicago had an opportunity to march down the field to put points on the board. Instead, Bears quarterback Rex Grossman attempted to get the ball to his outside receiver along the sideline coming out of a double-move. He targeted second-year cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who was filling in for veteran Nick Harper.
Hayden picked off the pass and managed to stay inbound all the way back for a pick six. The lead ballooned to 12, requiring Grossman and the Bears offense to get two touchdowns in the last 12 minutes of the game. This was too big an obstacle to overcome. The game was effectively over.
The biggest unsung hero of this game was Colts running back Dominic Rhodes, who arguably deserved to win the Super Bowl MVP. He took 21 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown against one of the best defenses in the league. He allowed Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to run a balanced offense and pick his shots through the air. Rather than relying on Manning to carry the team, Indianapolis won this with some tough running from Rhodes and Joseph Addai and some opportunistic defensive plays.
Three other plays stand out as all-time Colts Super Bowl moments. The first is the Manning-to-Reggie Wayne 53-yard touchdown pass that tied up the game early.
The second play is when Colts safety Bob Sanders forced a fumble on a Cedric Benson run, setting a tone that and dealing a big blow to the Bears plans on the ground.
The last play is when Sanders picked off Grossman late in the game to seal Chicago’s fate. This was the exclamation point on the drive following Hayden’s pick six.
What is the biggest Super Bowl moment in Colts history to you? Share in the comments.