Horse power

The Baltimore Sun

MIAMI -- It took 36 years and a tumultuous relocation from Baltimore, but the Colts are on top of the football world again.

Like it or not, Baltimore, the Indianapolis Colts reigned in the rain, beating the Chicago Bears, 29-17, in the Super Bowl last night.

Behind the patient passing of Peyton Manning, the tough running of their backs and the timely second-half play of their defense, the Colts won their first NFL title since their bitter move to Indianapolis in 1984.

The wild and often sloppy Super Bowl - the first played in the rain in the event's 41-year history - crowned Manning as a championship quarterback and made Tony Dungy the first African-American coach to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

"It's hard to put into words," said Manning, the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player who long had the reputation for putting up big numbers but not winning big games. "It sure is a great feeling."

After overcoming a hostile crowd in Baltimore in the divisional round and rallying from 18 points down in the AFC championship game, the Colts weren't going to let anything stand in their way last night.

Not the heavy downpour, which negated their speed on offense. Not the crowd of 74,512 at Dolphin Stadium, most of which cheered loudly for the Bears. And certainly not the ragged start that put them in an eight-point hole.

Manning shook off an interception on his first drive to finish 25-for-38 for 247 yards and a touchdown. With the Bears playing a deep zone most of the game, Manning was content to throw short, efficient passes but did hit Reggie Wayne for a 53-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

It completed a nine-year quest for the two-time NFL MVP: a championship ring.

"I don't think there's anything you can say now, other than this guy is a Hall of Fame player and one of the greatest players to ever play the game," Dungy said.

This triumph was hardly the Manning show.

There were running backs Dominic Rhodes (113 yards rushing) and Joseph Addai (77), who exposed Chicago's poor tackling to combine for 190 yards on the ground. And there was the Colts' defense, which came up with five turnovers, including a game-clinching 56-yard interception return for a touchdown by backup cornerback Kelvin Hayden.

As the confetti showered the field, the scoreboard flashed the blue horseshoe over the words: "Super Bowl XLI Champions."

"That's been our theme all year," Manning said. "We won as a team."

The Bears, the top-seeded NFC team, jumped out to a 14-6 lead in the first quarter but were undone by their erratic quarterback. In a signature meltdown, Rex Grossman (20-for-28 for 165 yards) threw two interceptions and fumbled once.

As the final seconds ticked off, Dungy became the first black coach to win the championship, beating good friend and protege Lovie Smith in a game that featured two black coaches for the first time in Super Bowl history.

"I thought about it when I was on the podium, being the first African-American coach to win it," Dungy said. "I have to dedicate this to some guys before me - great coaches I know could have done this if they had gotten the opportunity. Lovie and I were able to take advantage of it. We certainly weren't the most qualified."

From the opening kickoff returned for a touchdown, the Super Bowl began with fireworks (on and off the field) and surprises, as the Bears, seven-point underdogs, ambushed the Colts in an action-packed start.

The first quarter featured four turnovers, three touchdowns and two offensive plays over 50 yards.

Devin Hester set the tone by returning the opening kickoff 92 yards, the quickest score in Super Bowl history. Hester, who returned an NFL-record seven kicks for touchdowns this season, caught the ball on the left side and made two cuts to break free to the end zone.

It marked the first time since the Ravens' Jermaine Lewis in 2001 that a kickoff had been returned for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

"I'm so proud of our guys," Dungy said. "We took the hit early with Devin Hester. We talked about it; it's going to be a storm. Sometimes you have to work for it. Our guys played so hard and I can't tell you how proud I am of our group, our organization and our city."

After Wayne's touchdown and a botched extra point cut the deficit to 7-6, the teams traded fumbles before Bears running back Thomas Jones broke a 52-yard run (the longest of the season for Chicago) and Grossman slipped a 4-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad.

The Bears' offense fell into a rut after that score, failing to produce a first down on five straight series.

Down 14-6, the Colts started to take control of the game in the second quarter.

They cut into that deficit with Adam Vinatieri's 29-yard field goal and then took their first lead at 16-14 on Rhodes' 1-yard run up the gut of the defense.

After Indianapolis extended its lead to 22-14 on field goals of 24 and 20 yards from Vinatieri, it essentially sealed the victory 3:16 into the fourth quarter on a turn of events that will haunt Grossman.

After completing a 22-yard pass to Muhammad, he floated a throw right to Hayden. An injury replacement for Nick Harper (ankle), Hayden raced down the left sideline for a 56-yard touchdown, increasing Indianapolis' lead to 29-17.

Grossman followed that with another interception - two in four throws - when Bob Sanders picked him off deep over the middle.

"A frustrating loss," Grossman said. "There were definitely opportunities for us to take that game and we didn't do it."

The only other time the Colts won the Super Bowl was January 1971, when the franchise was in Baltimore. The Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, in Miami on a game-ending 32-yard field goal by Jim O'Brien.

Last night, the Colts raised the Lombardi Trophy again, after being presented it by Don Shula, who led the Baltimore Colts to seven straight winning records in the 1960s.

"With the disappointments, you realize how hard it is to get here," said Dungy, who had failed to reach the Super Bowl in his eight previous playoff trips. "You certainly appreciate it more."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Year-by-year results

MVPs in parentheses; all from winning team except Chuck Howley, 1971.

Results, MVPs

2007 Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17 (QB Peyton Manning)

2006 Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10 (WR Hines Ward)

2005 New England 24, Philadelphia 21 (WR Deion Branch) 2004 New England 32, Carolina 29 (QB Tom Brady) 2003 Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21 (S Dexter Jackson) 2002 New England 20, St. Louis 17 (QB Tom Brady)

2001 Ravens 34, N.Y. Giants 7 (LB Ray Lewis) 2000 St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16 (QB Kurt Warner) 1999 Denver 34, Atlanta 19 (QB John Elway) 1998 Denver 31, Green Bay 24 (RB Terrell Davis) 1997 Green Bay 35, New England 21 (KR Desmond Howard)

1996 Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17 (CB Larry Brown) 1995 San Francisco 49, San Diego 26 (QB Steve Young) 1994 Dallas 30, Buffalo 13 (RB Emmitt Smith) 1993 Dallas 52, Buffalo 17 (QB Troy Aikman) 1992 Washington 37, Buffalo 24 (QB Mark Rypien)

1991 N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19 (RB Ottis Anderson) 1990 San Francisco 55, Denver 10 (QB Joe Montana) 1989 San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16 (WR Jerry Rice) 1988 Washington 42, Denver 10 (QB Doug Williams) 1987 N.Y. Giants 39, Denver 20 (QB Phil Simms)

1986 Chicago 46, New England 10 (DE Richard Dent) 1985 San Francisco 38, Miami 16 (QB Joe Montana) 1984 L.A. Raiders 38, Washington 9 (RB Marcus Allen) 1983 Washington 27, Miami 17 (RB John Riggins) 1982 San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21 (QB Joe Montana)

1981 Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10 (QB Jim Plunkett) 1980 Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles 19 (QB Terry Bradshaw) 1979 Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31 (QB Terry Bradshaw) 1978 Dallas 27, Denver 10 (DT Randy White, DE Harvey Martin) 1977 Oakland 32, Minnesota 14 (WR Fred Biletnikoff)

1976 Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17 (WR Lynn Swann) 1975 Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6 (RB Franco Harris) 1974 Miami 24, Minnesota 7 (RB Larry Csonka) 1973 Miami 14, Washington 7 (S Jake Scott) 1972 Dallas 24, Miami 3 (QB Roger Staubach)

1971 Baltimore 16, Dallas 13 (LB Chuck Howley) 1970 Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7 (QB Len Dawson) 1969 N.Y. Jets 16, Baltimore 7 (QB Joe Namath) 1968 Green Bay 33, Oakland 14 (QB Bart Starr) 1967 Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10 (QB Bart Starr)

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