Manning Trumps Grossman

Sunday, February 4th 2007, 9:11 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) Peyton Manning made plays. Mistake-prone Rex Grossman didn't.

Just the way this Super Bowl figured to turn out.

Grossman didn't get much chance early in Indianapolis' 29-17 win Sunday night over the Chicago Bears, who designed their game plan to minimize mistakes by their quarterback and get points from the defense and special teams.

It worked at the start, when Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a score.

Then the Colts, figuring that Hester was more dangerous than Grossman and the Chicago offense, began to squib kicks to keep the ball away from him. And when Grossman finally had to throw, he did what he's done so often, he threw a duck into coverage that Kelvin Hayden intercepted and returned 56 yards for the touchdown that sealed the Colts' victory.

Then he threw another one to Bob Sanders. Like the first, the pass was underthrown.

So in a turnover-filled game, the mismatch at quarterback was the ultimate difference, as it should be given the matchup of a two-time MVP against a guy in his first full season as a starter.

Once the Indianapolis offense got over its early jitters, Manning was able to pick apart the Chicago defense but Grossman wasn't able to counter. Final totals: Manning threw for 247 yards, Grossman for just 165 -- but only 55 in the first three quarters.

Even the rain, which was supposed to help the Chicago defense, didn't benefit either team.

Maybe it caused the mishandled snap that resulted in the aborted extra point on the Colts' first touchdown. And maybe it was one reason Adam Vinatieri, the best clutch kicker in NFL history, missed a 36-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half.

But it also kept the turnovers coming. So every time the Chicago defense took the ball from the Colts, Indy seemed to get it back the same way.

Manning, meanwhile, managed one of his classic drives to put the Colts ahead for good with 6:15 left in the half.

It started with two passes, one to Marvin Harrison on a crossing pattern that left a linebacker on him, and another to Dallas Clark. Then it was Dominic Rhodes on the ground, pounding up the middle for the score: in other words, passes on run downs and runs on passing downs.

The Bears couldn't run well enough to make it safe for Grossman to pass. They had only three first downs in the first half. The conditions cost them their first drive of the second half -- Grossman was sacked on a second-and-1 and then lost 11 more yards when the wet ball squibbed through his legs.

Manning took what the Chicago defense gave him, dropping off passes to backs and tight ends and going deep only occasionally. Again, that was in part a factor of the conditions. Pass rushers have trouble getting traction on a wet field.

Then Grossman threw the inevitable duck, Hayden grabbed it and that was that.