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Original Issue

Possession Obsession

The Colts' methodical offense and speedy defense kept the ball out of the Bears' hands

IT STARTED as afreak show, with a record four turnovers in the first quarter, but then theColts turned Super Bowl XLI into a sound, workmanlike production, just the kindof defeat the Bears had hung on opponents all season.

Indianapolis putup a 29--17 victory without spectacular plays. Except for a 53-yard touchdownpass to Reggie Wayne through busted coverage, Peyton Manning didn't get muchaccomplished downfield. He didn't have to. He had Joseph Addai, the rookierunning back who turned the check-down pass into an art form.

A case could bemade for Addai as the game's MVP. He turned four-yard gains into plus-eights,cutting sharply and breaking the tackles of overpursuing defenders. He kept thesticks moving. On the opening drive of the second half, in which the Coltsstretched their lead to 19--14, Addai handled the ball on nine of 12 plays toset up Adam Vinatieri's field goal. You had to wonder if Manning wasoverworking the rookie at times.

"I alwayscheck with him," Manning said. "I kept asking him, 'You all right?' Hekept saying he was, so I kept going to him. They were taking away our deeppasses with their Cover Two. Plus the wind and rain made it kind of riskydownfield. Their linebackers were taking deep drops, so I had no choice but togo underneath. Plus our running was working."

The methodicalball-possession approach did to the Bears exactly what Indy had done to thePatriots in the AFC Championship Game--run up an inordinate disparity in snaps.After three quarters the Colts had run 66 plays to the Bears' 28; the overloadwas 81--48 at game's end. It was the third time in four postseason games thatIndy had run 80 or more plays. Two weeks earlier the Colts had simply taken NewEngland's legs away. The Bears didn't visibly tire, but you could tell thestrain was getting to the defense by the number of tackles Chicago missed."The Bears never broke. I really respect them," Colts left tackle TarikGlenn said. "But we were hitting them with our running game, catching theirstunts just right and throwing on them underneath."

That equationwouldn't have worked, of course, if the Indy defense hadn't shut down Chicagoin rather shocking fashion. The platform of the Bears' offense was the runninggame, and the Colts, for the most part, shut it down with speed. They attackedquarterback Rex Grossman by concentrating on his most dangerous weapon, thedeep strike. "He likes to go deep on first down," Indy defensivecoordinator Ron Meeks said, "so we let him throw into our Cover Two,sometimes even a three deep with the corners back and a safety in the middle.That, plus the wind and the rain, made it very rough for him."

Two deep ballswere intercepted. Grossman completed only two passes longer than 14 yards, a22-yarder to Muhsin Muhammad early in the fourth quarter and an 18-yarder totight end Desmond Clark on the game's last play. Working underneath is notGrossman's style, and on the handful of occasions when the Colts blitzed, thedefensive backs, particularly free safety Bob Sanders, jumped the hotreads.

And Indy didn'tmiss tackles, which was a tremendous difference between the two defenses. TheBears were missing, the Colts weren't. Talk about surprises.



DEEP COVER With Indianapolis daring Chicago to throw long, Sanders (21) and Hayden (26) had late picks to seal the win.