Sorry Chris, but I actually picked one right this time. New year, and all that.
Some comments on the Colts' win in a Super Bowl that seemed dull for much of the second half.
First, nice piece in The Sporting News breaking down the Colts' run defense with Brian Baldinger. The Colts said after getting a butt-whipping from J'Ville that they were not that far off from what they needed to do in run defense. Critics scoffed -- how could that be after the Jags rolled up 375 yards on the ground and looked like the 1995 Nebraska run offense? The TSN article with Baldinger's analysis demonstrated where and how the Colts bonked their defensive assignments and how just one blown assignment on a given play led to huge holes and a big run (sound familiar Bears fans? Four words: Reggie Wayne touchdown catch). The horseshoes obviously corrected the flaws.
Second, this game was the closest beatdown in a Super Bowl in years. Until the Bears' final drive, the Colts had more than doubled up the Bears' yardage. But for Devin Hester and kicking farkups that cost the Colts 4 points, this was a 33-10 game. Consider that at one point in the third quarter, the Colts had run 63 plays, the Bears 23. But for some good Bears defense in the shadow of their own goalpost that forced the Colts to seek FGs, the game would have been over early in the third quarter.
Third, credit Manning on more than just one level -- not only did he prepare well, he helped get his team to smarten up. After the whole Colts offense started between jittery and stupid on the first drive, Manning settled down, made plays against pressure and took advantage of the holes in the Bears' defense to lead the team back from a minor 8-point deficit to a halftime lead. Credit also Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes for solid running, and Addai's ability as a receiver.
Other notes: (1) it took nearly a full quarter's worth of game time for CBS to locate the definitive replay of the bomb to Wayne and to analyze how and why the Bears allowed a Pro-Bowl WR to get open in the middle of the field for a 53-yard TD. That failure alone should lower the high marks CBS seems to be receiving for its game coverage.
(2) The Monk realizes wishful thinking when he hears it and that occurred yesterday while listening to Mike Ditka on Westwood One's radio pregame. Ditka said the Bears would actually like to see Indy run 40+ times and that he didn't think the Colts would have the patience to do that in the game. Ditka needs to cut his prescriptions. The Colts ran their gameplan with a fully balanced attack during their comeback from 18 points down against New England. They ran, short-passed, ran and ran some more on a 6+ minute drive to open the second half against the Pats while trailing by 15. The Colts didn't panic. And unlike the Saints, Chiefs and Chargers, the Colts never abandoned the ground game. They just do not panic. Why Iron Mike couldn't discern this is another issue, but the simple fact is that the Colts are exceedingly well-coached and their leadership in the huddle is incomparable.
(3) Rex Grossman is not the worst QB to ever lead a team to the Super Bowl. After all, Trent Dilfer actually won one, Craig Morton reached two, and David Woodley started one (and set the record for fewest completions by a starting QB in the Super Bowl). But Grossman is near the bottom of the list, and he showed why his critics have a point with his interceptions with the game on the line in the late third quarter and early fourth.
(4) The Bears need to admit the Cedric Benson experiment is only marginally better than the Curtis Enis fiasco. Benson is a stiff. His collegiate bang-to-hype ratio was out of whack, and he still landed in Chicago as a preposterously high draft choice. Stick with Thomas Jones, the only offensive player who had a decent game for the Bears yesterday.
(5) Bernard Berrian doesn't do very well creating his own space. The Bears tried too much on downfield plays (Phil Simms noted that every double-move pattern they tried failed miserably) and Grossman couldn't get the ball out far enough.
Finally, a Hall of Fame note. The Pro Football Hall of Fame voters are specifically told to evaluate players only on what they did on the field. That is why Lawrence Taylor, for all his personal (sniff, snort) issues, was a no-doubter first-ballot player. Michael Irvin is not Lawrence Taylor in stature, importance to the history of the game, or impact as a player -- and not one bit of that evaluation should be read to denigrate Irvin. Indeed, Irvin is unquestionably a first-ballot Hall of Fame quality player. He could have and likely should have received the nod two years ago. He deserved the honor last year (although if righting the incomprehensible wrong the Committee had done to Harry Carson was the reason Irvin had to wait another year, I have no problem with that). And he deserved it on Saturday.
So congratulations to the Playmaker. And The Monk will still remember how Penn State shut you down in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl.