Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday Mourning Quarterback (Super Bowl Edition)

Season of Destiny?

Every sports season end with talk about a team of destiny. For a good portion of this past football season, the talk was about my Chicago Bears. At the beginning the Bears Defense and Offense couldn't be stopped. However a few injuries later and rough play by QB Rex Grossman, led the discussion to turn south toward New Orleans even though the Bears were still winning games.

The media loved the idea of the Saints being the team destined to win the Super Bowl. After Hurricane Rita and Katrina, the city was devastated and the Saints and their fans with broken lives became the ultimate story. That of course was not to be as the Bears crushed New Orleans in the NFC conference title game.

Not only did the Colts never be viewed as a team with it's future written by a higher power, nobody really gave them much of a chance to make it to Miami after the first half off the season. Its ironic, but during the first 6-seven games of the year, the Bears and Colts always where 1 and 2 in the power rankings. However, when it became apparent that Indianapolis had serious defensive problems, they were no longer given a prayer in the AFC. Suddenly San Diego and Baltimore became the AFC teams favored to play in the Super Bowl.

A few playoff games later, the two original teams who topped the power rankings in the first half of the season found themselves in Miami fighting it out for NFL supremacy. Moral of this story, never take sports writers seriously and in professional sports anything can happen, which is why they play the games.


Just a game...right?

It's no secret that Indianapolis is like a second home for me. I'm a product of Indiana University, my wife is a born Hoosier and I find myself back there at least once or twice a year visiting great friends. If the Colts were playing anyone else last night, I would be as happy as Ted Kennedy at a party with an open bar and young woman who can't swim. However, I find myself waking up this morning with an empty feeling inside.

Chicago is my home. I love the people, culture, pizza, beef/sausage combo's and especially my Bears and White Sox. So last night was very disappointing. However at no point did I get terribly upset and for two reasons. For starters it wasn't until the last interception, did I think the Bears were out of it. Let's be honest, all season long the Bears had found ways to win even when they weren't playing at their best. The other reason was I was happy the Bears had made it to the big show and it's important to never lose sight of that fact. No matter what the outcome was of Super bowl 41, it was an awesome season with great promise for years to come.

I can't say the same for my mother. Those who know me would believe that during last evening's contest, your brilliant blogger would be the one using inappropriate language around the children. Nope. It was grandma. Growing up, my mom would yell, scream and curse during Bears games. The family dog would spend 3 hours under a bed, fearful of my mom and her ranting. To say my mother is a fan would be a serious understatement. That reminds me, I better call her and make sure she isn't attempting to throw herself off her apartment building. Wait...its -9 degrees outside with a 30 below wind-chill, she hates the cold almost as much as she hates the Bears losing.


Congrats Colts
So what happened?

All season long I had one major complaint about Indianapolis, coaching. I never believed Tony Dungy was a bad coach. In fact quiet the opposite. I did believe he and his staff had made decisions during the season as well as long term that had forbid Indy from getting to the next level. I won't go into those criticisms, my readers heard me address them often this year.

A true sign of coaching brilliance is to realize your weaknesses and make the necessary changes in time, so they don't hurt you. Dungy and his staff did exactly that. When the playoffs came around, the defense looked great, the running game was strong and ironically it was the passing attack that was missing in the first two-playoff games. Dungy had it all working during the Super Bowl.

On the other side of the field it was an opposite situation. The Bears coaching staff was awful. Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera proved without a doubt that he is not ready to be a head coach. The Bears made the same mistake most teams make against Indy and that was being so fearful of the big play that they literally had nobody defending against the short pass. Announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms pointed that out often during the game, but Ron Rivera couldn't figure it out. Going into the game, it was obvious that the Bears cornerback would have problem with the Colts receiving core. Regardless, you can't have your entire secondary begin each play 15-20 years deep and think your going to stop the 8-10 yard receiving-route. All season Manning beat opponents because of that mistake. How Rivera couldn't see that blows my mind away.

The situation on offense is harder to figure out. It can't be ignored the terrible cost to the Bears when RB Cedric Benson went down early in the game. The Bears 1-2 punch RB combo was going to be the Colts doom. I still believe that would have been the case if Benson didn't get hurt. With all the Bears problems against the pass, they still were solid in the red zone.

Before the fourth quarter, Grossman was fine when it came to completing passes and as far as the interceptions later, that will happen. His fumbles and trips, which arguably were weather related, was his demise. What the viewers couldn't sense when the Bears had the ball was what was happening down field? Was everyone covered so well that Grossman couldn't throw long? Was the game plan to only have short passes? Still trying to figure that one out.

You may think I am quick to excuse the interceptions, but looking at the plays objectively instead of with Grossman hating eyes (Shannon Sharp, Phil Simms), they weren't that bad. The long pass to Berrian was not a good throw. Grossman got to much air under the ball and didn't throw it deep enough. The interception that was run back for a TD was a play that Quarterbacks thrown all the time with the outcome being a completion or incomplete pass more often than not. Call it miscommunication or an overrated receiver, but if Mushin Muhammad turns around to attempt the catch chances are more likely that the pass will be as described above. Nobody knows except the Bears team what was the actual play.

For the next few days the media whores will spend more time ripping Rex than congratulating Peyton. That's sad. Grossman accomplished great things in his first full year and made mistakes expected of a player who in reality was still a rookie. Manning is already Hall of Fame bound and deserves to be discussed in the same company as Montana, Elway and Unitas. The game and season is over and it is now time for both teams to reflect and be proud.

Thank you to my Bears who gave their fans and unexpected treat this year. Congratulations to my second hometown, Indianapolis for a well-deserved and overdue Super Bowl win.

Paulie

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