There are some people who have not watched a down of football this season and, of course, there are others who have lived and breathed football for the past four months and have the low fall semester GPA to prove it. Whether you are a football junkie who knows that the Colts and Bears use the Tampa 2 defense or if you are just watching to see beer and soft drink companies dump money into commercials faster than a pantsuit-bedraggled divorcee pumping quarters into slot machines at Turning Stone, this will tell you everything significant about the Super Bowl.
Let’s start out with the respective franchises, the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears. The Colts were originally in Baltimore until 1984 when they literally left in the middle of the night. That move apparently angered the citizens of Baltimore, which makes no sense because the Colts were among the worst franchises in the league for the following 15 seasons. They have righted their ship thanks largely in part to stability at quarterback.
The Bears, meanwhile, had been equally obscure since their 1985 Super Bowl run that culminated with a 46-10 merciless shellacking of the Patriots. Post-1985, Chicago’s only identity in the NFL was as a doormat.
No Super Bowl is complete without starpower, and this one has two of the best players in the league: Peyton Manning and Brian Urlacher. I used to watch Manning play high school football in New Orleans. True story: Peyton threw so many touchdowns in the first half of a game that he sat out the second half to flirt with the cheerleaders. Peyton is the most decorated passer of our generation – he is the season-record holder for most touchdown passes and most awkward mannerisms.
In order for Peyton to get the Super Bowl monkey off his back, he’ll face Brian Urlacher, middle linebacker for the Bears. Urlacher may be the fastest, biggest human being since Ivan Drago. True Story: Urlacher bench-pressed 225 pounds 27 times at a scouting session then proceeded to run a 4:59.40 mile. He also briefly dated Paris Hilton. A former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Urlacher follows a line of great Bears’ linebackers that includes Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.
The coaches, Tony Dungy of the Colts and Lovie Smith of the Bears, worked together in Tampa Bay and remain close friends. Dungy is known for quiet sideline demeanor while Smith has a reputation as a players’ coach. So if you’re looking for a coaching prediction, expect to see Smith talking to his players and looking somewhat animated and Dungy looking like a guy in the waiting room before a colonoscopy, staring straight ahead hoping nothing bad happens in the next few hours.
As for fatal flaws, we’ll start with the Colts, who were lambasted throughout the season for shoddy run defense, which stemmed from the lack of a strong safety and being undersized on the defensive line. However, with the return of safety Bob Sanders and greater emphasis on gang tackling, a staple of the Tampa 2 defense, the Colts’ defense has really stiffened against the run.
I have two words that make every Bears fan shudder: Rex Grossman. He started the season out hotter than anybody, but defenses started figuring him and the offense out, and Grossman tailed off. In his final game of the season, he posted a Blutarski-like 0.0 Qauterback Rating. The last time a quarterback was this shaky heading to the Super Bowl, Kerry Collins threw four interceptions in a 34-7 loss to the Ravens.
My personal favorite subplot of the Super Bowl is with the Bears’ defensive tackle, Tank Johnson, who had been on probation for a weapons possession charge when police searched his home recently and found six firearms, including two assault rifles an obvious violation of his probation. Tank needed a court’s permission to travel with the team to Miami. An athlete hasn’t had this much trouble with court restrictions since Ruben Patterson, a basketball player, couldn’t be traded to Orlando or Miami last season because he would have to register as a sex offender in Florida.
So there it is. Colts and Bears. Manning and Urlacher. Dungy and Smith. Unstable defense and inconsistent quarterback. A guy named Tank with too much firepower. This wouldn’t be much of a preview unless I gave my own prediction (sans Prince jokes): Colts 31, Bears 20.
Tilis is a member of the class of 2008.