One of the great givens of NFL life is no more: Peyton Manning really can win the big one. There's an older given too, overshadowed by the Manning given in recent years: Tony Dungy can't win the big one. That's also gone.
As he has done throughout these playoffs, Manning played game manager more than superstar Sunday night as the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17, making Dungy the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl. Dungy had gained a reputation in his years in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis as a coach whose teams fizzled in the playoffs.
Manning was given the Most Valuable Player award that perhaps should have gone to his two running backs, Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai. They combined for 190 yards on 40 carries, Rhodes collecting 113 of those and Addai adding 66 more on 10 catches.
The Colts dominated the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. They dominated the game, the first Super Bowl played in steady rain, but not the scoreboard. The Bears, who got a charge when rookie Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, led 14-6 at one point in a thrilling first quarter and trailed only 22-17 early in the fourth.
Indianapolis turned the ball over three times, twice on fumbles, and bogged down in the red zone four times, Adam Vinatieri kicking three field goals and missing one. That failure to turn 430 yards and 24 first downs into a similarly huge pile of points left the door open for the Bears, but Chicago couldn't make anything of the chance.
A breakthrough performance by Rex Grossman might have done it, but Grossman was bad. He sailed floating passes to the sidelines, fumbled snaps and made disastrous decisions. Grossman made a nice throw to Muhsin Muhammad for a 5-yard touchdown following Thomas Jones' 52-yard run midway through the first quarter. That gave the Bears their 14-6 lead -- and their last effective offensive moment.
The Colts defense, the worst ever to win a Super Bowl, had played well throughout the playoffs, shutting down the running games of the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots after not stopping anybody's running game all year. But while the Colts made some nice plays Sunday, particularly Bob Sanders' crunching hit on running back Cedric Benson, separating Benson from the ball and forcing a first-quarter turnover, the Bears' woes looked more like offensive incompetence than defensive strength.
The worst came in the fourth quarter. Down by five with 13:38 to go, the Bears took over at their own 20 following a touchback on a punt. Grossman hit Muhammad for a first down at the 37, but on the next play made a backbreaking mistake.
It was a double move route for Muhammad. Grossman pump-faked at the first move, but the Colts cornerback, Kelvin Hayden, didn't buy the fake. Muhammad wasn't open but Grossman threw anyway, a pop fly down the right sideline that Hayden, a reserve filling in for the injured Nick Harper, intercepted at the Colts 44 and returned for the touchdown.
With the Bears barely able to move the sticks, that was pretty much the game, but there was still 11:44 on the clock, so Chicago had some life.
Not for long. After taking over at the 20, Grossman hit Desmond Clark on a third-and-2 for a first down, then went long for a wide-open Bernard Berrian on play-action.
A good throw and Berrian would have had a chance at a comeback touchdown, but Grossman underthrew it. That gave Sanders, the safety, time to come over and leap in front of Berrian for the interception, which he returned from the Indianapolis 21 to the Chicago 41. With 9:55 to go, garbage time commenced.
The Bears' best offensive weapon, Hester, was never a factor after that electrifying opening runback. Indianapolis kept the ball away from him for the rest of the night, squib kicking when he lined up deep and kicking deep when he lined up closer to midfield to try to field the squib.
He had only one more crack at a kickoff, after the Colts scored a touchdown for 29-17. Vinatieri kicked a line drive that bounded toward Hester near the goal line, but he wasn't able to get a friendly bounce and had to chase the ball into the end zone for a touchback. He also managed only one punt return, for three yards.
Manning started poorly. On the Colts' first series, already down 7-0, he had a pass tipped by Brian Urlacher, another almost intercepted by Nathan Vasher and a third that was intercepted by Chris Harris. It looked like Manning might be in for another playoff meltdown, but starting with the Colts' next possession, he settled down.
On third-and-10 from the Colts 47 -- the third third down of the drive -- Manning avoided the teeth of a pass rush, threw as Tank Johnson raked an arm across his stomach, and hit Reggie Wayne down the middle for a 53-yard touchdown and the Colts' first points.
Manning ended up 25-of-38 for 247 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one sack. It was not a spectacular performance, except that it happened in the rain and it happened in the biggest game of his life.
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Snickers wins anti-gay title, but not by much [PERMALINK]
Sad that with all the attention being lavished on Tony Dungy of Indianapolis and Lovie Smith of Chicago as the first black head coaches in Super Bowl history, the broadcast of Super Bowl XLI ended up being so homophobic. Progress for one minority at a time, evidently.
Snickers kicked it off in the first quarter with an ad in which two guys are working on a car engine, one busts out a Snickers bar and the other, evidently turned on by the long, hard, caramel-filled ramrod of chocolate flavor, bites on the other end of it. The men work their way toward each other and end up touching lips.
They then recoil, of course, just as the two men did in the ad that this one rips off directly, a Heineken spot from early this decade. In that one, the men's hands touched on a bottle, the lights dimmed and "This Magic Moment" played on the soundtrack. Then they retreated to opposite ends of the couch and acted all manly.
In the Snickers spot, the guy who grabbed his friend's candy bar with his mouth says, "I think we just accidentally kissed," and the guy who had his candy jumped says, "Quick, do something manly."
Then they each tear some hair off their chests.
Because depilation is so straight.
The spot ends with a URL, Afterthekiss.com, where I thought we'd see our two friends a few months later, frolicking on Fire Island. Alas, the Web site offers four different versions of the spot, only one of which is remotely witty -- a third guy, who sort of looks like child-killer Richard Davis, because what other kind of guy would say this, ambles up and says, "Is there room for three on this Love Boat?"
You can also watch video of various Colts and Bears watching the ads on laptops and expressing amused disgust at the idea of men kissing.
Two ads after the Snickers spot, a CBS ad for "Survivor" showed some guy saying, "Me and Richard became friends -- not in a homosexual way."
OK, network and advertising people, we get it. Gay is bad. Thanks for the tip.
A while later there was a Chevy ad created by customers -- a popular genre this year no doubt dreamed up by advertising creatives to demonstrate why they make the big bucks. The ad was a sort of rap video parody in which a bunch of guys spontaneously disrobe and start washing, wet 'n' wild style, a Chevy truck driven by three women.
Of course, the men are all pasty, old, lumpy, scrawny or some combination of the above. No hot guys. That'd be, like, gay or something. Underdressed, gyrating guys are OK as long as they're hilariously unsexy.
So while we rightly celebrated a victory over discrimination for one group of people, another group took several slaps to the face.
Dungy's hardly carrying the flag for that group. According to the Web site Outsports, the Colts coach will be the featured guest at a March fundraiser for the Indiana Family Institute, a group affiliated with Focus on the Family that fights gay rights, especially gay marriage.
Dungy trumpets his Christianity pretty loudly, as do groups like the Indiana Family Institute, which argues that "the Bible repeatedly condemns homosexuality as contrary to God's will for mankind."
Contrary to God's will. People used to make that same argument against integration.
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Super Bowl ads: Another weak crop [PERMALINK]
The whole "Super Bowl of Advertising" concept seems to have jumped the shark. When's the last time you really had your socks knocked off by a Super Bowl ad? Year after year I find myself saying, "Eh. Was that it?"
This year's commercials were the usual warmed-over stew, a few mildly amusing spots, a few semicreative ones and a whole bunch of obvious big budgets used to no great effect.
I don't know what's going on at Anheuser-Busch, which is practically down the street from my house, but I don't think I want to go down there. Most of the ads for Budweiser and Bud Light could be put in one or both of two categories: Violent or stupid.
In one, a guy wings a rock into his buddy's forehead to get the last beer. In another, a guy sics a trained squirrel on a pal for the same reason. The joke of one spot was that the fist bump has been replaced by the face slap, so it's 30 seconds of people slapping each other.
The only ad of this type with any cleverness was one in which a couple picks up a crazy-looking hitcher with an ax -- and a 12-pack of Bud Light. The woman doesn't want to, but the guy's excited by the prospect of free Bud Light. Then they pull up on another hitchhiker, and he has a chain saw and a hood. The ax guy, in the back seat, says, "But he has a chain saw!" Cute, and at least it's not crystal clear that the driver and his girl got murdered. If they did, it took longer than 30 seconds.
The ad with the crabs praying to the cooler and the one with Don Shula and Jay-Z playing a futuristic football game were just stupid.
Fed Ex ran an ad about the first office on the moon. One guy pats another on the back and he floats off into space. I found myself wondering when it became necessary for someone to die or be seriously injured to move a little product.
The best example of that Super Bowl phenomenon of a spot clearly being wildly expensive and using state-of-the-art special effects, but otherwise being unremarkable, was the Coke ad where the guy puts a coin in a vending machine. We follow the coin through a magical land where the bottle of soda is bottled, cooled, etc. And: Who cares. It's the kind of ad that might make advertising and computer graphics people go all woozy, but for the rest of us: Yawn.
The best of 'em:
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