In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI, played in a steady rain at Dolphin Stadium in Miami. The game started with a bang for the Bears, as Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but the Colts were clearly the better team and dominated the rest of the way. The game was historic as Tony Dungy of the Colts and Lovie Smith of the Bears were the first two African American head coaches in the Super Bowl.
It had finally happened for Tony Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts in 2006, as they had come agonizingly close the last several seasons. Dungy had to feel like the NFL’s version of Buck Showalter in 2002 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII. Dungy had turned the Buccaneers from perennial losers to contenders before winning in the first season with Jon Gruden. Dungy meanwhile moved on to Indianapolis and helped Peyton Manning take the next step, but they had been tormented by Tom Brady and the Patriots in back-to-back seasons, before a stunning loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers as the number one seed in 2005. The Colts had come in under the radar to the 2006 postseason, posting a 12-4 record as the third seed, but looked anything but a Super Bowl contender with a 3-4 record down the last seven weeks. In the playoffs, the Colts needed to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 23-6 in the Wild Card round. A week later they played their first playoff game in Baltimore since their midnight move and squeezed by the Ravens 15-6, thanks to five field goals by Adam Vinatieri, who replaced Mike Vanderjagt who missed a crucial field goal in the 2005 loss to the Steelers. In the AFC Championship Game, the Colts slayed the monster beating the Patriots 38-34, staging an 18-point comeback the largest ever in a conference championship game.
The Chicago Bears coached by Lovie Smith were a bit of a surprise team in the Super Bowl, posting a record of 13-3, despite not having a truly reliable quarterback as Rex Grossman was under center most of the season. The Bears relied on a strong running game led by Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones, defense, and special teams. The Bears special teams were record-setting as rookie Devin Hester had six return touchdowns during the season, including one that was 108 yards. In the playoffs, the Bears survived overtime to beat the Seattle Seahawks 27-24, then beat the New Orleans Saints 39-14 in the NFC Championship Game.
The big story leading up to the game was around the two coaches, Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears, each were the first African American head coaches in the Super Bowl. Smith had actually been a protégé of Dungy, having served as linebackers’ coach with the Buccaneers from 1996-2000. The Colts entered the game as a seven-point favorite, as Billy Joel performed the National Anthem and Dan Marino took part in the ceremonial coin toss, with Norm Hunt, widow of AFL founder LaMar Hunt. One side note that was interesting is that Indianapolis and Chicago were the closest any two Super Bowl opponents have been, with just 162 miles separating the two cities.
As the game began a steady rain was falling in Miami. The game would begin with a bang for the Bears as Devin Hester returned the kick 92 yards for a touchdown. At 21 seconds it was the quickest score in Super Bowl history, and the first time the opening kick off was returned for a touchdown. After the two teams punted back and forth to each other, the Colts got their first points on a 53-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne. Adam Vinatieri missed the extra point, as the Bears stayed in front 7-6. On the ensuing kickoff, Gabe Reid fumbled setting up the Colts to take the lead from the Bears 34. However, Manning fumbled on the first play from scrimmage giving the ball right back to Chicago. The Bears drive started quickly as Thomas Jones ran 52 yards to the Colts five-yard line. From there Rex Grossman would connect with Mushin Muhammad to take a 14-6 lead. After the Colts went three and out, the Bears committed another miscue as Cedric Benson fumbled at the 48. The Colts, though failed to capitalize and the score remained 14-6 in favor of Chicago at the end of the first 15 minutes. The Colts offense began to find some rhythm early in the second quarter as they drove down and set up a 29-yard field goal by Vinatieri to cut Chicago’s lead to 14-9. After the Bears were quickly turned aside, the Colts got the ball back and to the lead for the first time. The drive started with two big pass plays, as Manning hit a 22-yard pass to Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark for 17 yards. The Colts would cash the 58-yard drive with a one-yard run by Dominic Rhodes. Neither team scored the rest of the second quarter, as the Colts led at the half 16-14.
After a memorable halftime performance by Prince who closed with Purple Rain in the rain, the Colts looked to put up some insurance as they went on a long drive, that ended with a 24-yard field goal by Vinatieri. On their next drive, Dominic Rhodes took over for Indianapolis, busting open a 35-yard run, which set up another Adam Vinatieri field goal to make the score 22-14 in favor of the Colts. The Bears would answer on a 44-yard field goal as the game went into the fourth quarter with the Colts clinging to a 22-17 lead. The Colts were unable to move the ball as the fourth quarter began, with the Bears looking to take the lead. However, Kelvin Hayden with a 56-yard interception return gave the Colts the breathing room they needed at 29-17. The rest of the way the Colts looking to run out the clock had a steady diet of Dominic Rhodes running the ball. The Bears were unable to answer as the Colts won 29-17, with Peyton Manning earning MVP honors with 247 passing yards and one touchdown, while Dominic Rhodes was nearly being nearly as worthy with 113 rushing yards and a touchdown. The win helped erase the notion that Manning could not win the big game.
With the win, the Hall of Fame credentials of Tony Dungy were cemented as he demonstrated class and dignity, becoming the first African American coach to win the Super Bowl.