Following a defiant seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12...
BASN NFL Picks: Super Bowl XLI
By Tony McClean
Updated: February 1, 2007
NEW HAVEN, Ct — Sunday’s historic Super Bowl between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts has all the makings of being a very close and competitive game. In looking at the same of the key match ups, the two teams are a lot similar to each other than most casual fans may think.
While Da Bears are considered the “defensive” team and the Horseshoes are considered the “offensive” team, it’s safe to say that the on and off the field relationship between Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy will add to this game’s flavor and make it just a little bit more than a “teacher vs. student” match up.
Both teams are disciples of the “Cover 2″ defense that Dungy first initiated while at Tampa Bay. Smith, a former assistant under Dungy at Tampa, has taken that same basic blueprint and added a few wrinkles to it in Chi-Town.
Offensively is where things are a bit different. Smith employs more of a running attack with backs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. Indy is a bit more pass oriented with Peyton Manning hitting every receiver from wide out Marvin Harrison to defensive lineman Dan Klecko and others.
Because we’re dealing with just one game, we’ll take a brief, but detailed look at each unit offensively and defensively and try to let you know who we think will be holding the Lombardi Trophy late Sunday evening.
SUPER BOWL FACTOID
The Bears rushed for a season-high 196 yards in the NFC title game and has averaged 145.5 in their last six contests. However, the Colts held Kansas City’s Larry Johnson to 32 yards in the wild card round; limited Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis to 53 yards the divisional round; and allowed only 93 rushing yards to New England as a team in the AFC title game.
Since 1965, only three Bears rookie quarterbacks have won their first NFL start (not including the 1987 replacement games). Which one of these players lost his first start with Chicago?
A. Craig Krenzel
B. Rex Grossman
C. Jim McMahon
D. Bobby Douglass
(The answer comes at the end of the column).
Rex Grossman and Peyton Manning are at the polar opposites in the quarterback food chain. While “Sexy Rexy” is more of a caretaker-type QB, Manning is one of the game’s elite field generals. However, Manning hasn’t been his outstanding best this postseason (six picks in last three games). Grossman isn’t lighting up the world either, but with Jones and Benson in the backfield, all No. 8 has to really do is get out of the way. Despite the ugly numbers, No. 18 gives Indy a clear advantage.
A battle between the pseudo “law firms” of Jones & Benson versus Addai & Rhodes. I must admit going into the season I thought the Colts would miss Edgerrin James much more than they would admit. Turns out they knew a helluva lot more about the LSU rookie (1,081 rushing yards, 40 catches, 10 total TDs) than we all did. However, Jones and Benson are very reminiscent of the Walter Payton-Roland Harper backfields of the 70′s. The change of pace from the Chicago duo will be a key in this game, especially in regards to the aforementioned factoid. Given their experience, we’ll give a slight nod to Da Bears.
Both lines have proven the ability to run and pass block. In many ways, these may be two of the most underrated offensive lines in the league. However, I’ll give Indy a slight edge only because of their patience in dealing with Manning’s all too frequent audibles at the line and their prowess during the no-huddle offense. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Indy in the no-huddle during the entire game, even with the lead.
No disrespect to Messrs. Muhammad, Berrian, Clark and others for Chi-Town, but when you’ve got a future Hall of Famer (Harrison), a budding superstar (Wayne) and an underrated tight end in Dallas Clark on one side of the line, that’s one helluva arsenal. Not to mention the fact that they also throw to lineman (offensive and defensive) within and outside of their no-huddle offense. The Chi-Town crew aren’t completely untalented, but Indy has so many weapons on this end that it’s almost a walkover.
Despite the loss of DE Tommie Harris, Chicago still finished with the NFC’s top defense. However, they’ve been up-and-down in their first two postseason games. They allowed 306 total yards to Seattle in the opener, but they put the clamps on Drew Brees (forcing four turnovers) and the Saints’ explosive attack. Sunday will be their biggest test yet. The same holds true for Indy as well. We already mentioned what they’ve done in their last three games and they’ll need that same effort Sunday. This is really a tossup, but I’ll give a slight edge to Da Bears.
Indy has a great set of fast backers, but to me Chicago has the decided edge in this particular match up.While Brian Urlacher gets most of the hype, fellow Pro Bowler Lance Briggs may be one of the most underrated players on the Bears’ roster. This is an area that Chicago has basically dominated all season. Much like the wide receiver comparison, the Horseshoes aren’t slouches, it’s just that the Bears are that much better.
This could be an area where Indy could use it’s advantage to win this contest. Now that Bob Sanders is healthy and reeking havoc in the secondary again, Indy’s overall defense has stepped up at the right time. If the versatile Mike Brown was healthy for the Bears, I would have rated this somewhat even. But given what the Colts’ secondary has done for most of the second half of the season, I half to lean towards them.
We all know that Adam Vinatieri is arguably one of the greatest kickers in postseason history and that will be a great advantage for the Colts. But when you realize that Chicago’s incredible kick returner Nathan Vasher is one-man scoring machine by himself, it evens this match up out. Robbie Gould isn’t a bad kicker considering his winning kick against Seattle, but this match up is too close to call for me.
As I said earlier, I feel that these teams are very evenly matched. The two main keys will be how much pressure can Chicago’s D put on Manning and will the Colts’ D be able to handle the Bears’ running game. I think this will be a close game that will decided by a field goal. Now you know you’ve seen this ending before!!
Pick: Colts 30, Bears 27.
TRIVIA ANSWER: D. On October 19, 1969, Bobby Douglass went four-of-nine for 41 yards and touchdown in his first NFL start. The Lions defeated the Bears 13-7 at Tiger Stadium as Douglass hit Bob Wallace on a 36-yard scoring pass for the Bears’ only score.