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MVP Manning the difference in the outcome
Grossman’s lack of experience proved costly

By Dave Goldberg
Associated Press Writer

MIAMI — Peyton Manning made plays. Mistake-prone Rex Grossman didn’t.

Just the way this Super Bowl figured to turn out.

Grossman didn’t get much chance to err early in Indianapolis’ 29-17 win Sunday night over the Chicago Bears, who designed their game plan to minimize mistakes by their quarterback and get points from the defense and special teams.

It worked at the start, when Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a score.

Then the Colts, figuring that Hester was more dangerous than Grossman and the Chicago offense, began to squib kicks to keep the ball away from him.

And when Grossman finally had to throw, he did what he’s done so often, he threw a duck into coverage that Kelvin Hayden intercepted and returned 56 yards for the touchdown that sealed the Colts’ victory.

Then he threw another one to Bob Sanders. Like the first, the pass was underthrown.

So in a turnover-filled game, the mismatch at quarterback was the ultimate difference, as it should be given the matchup of a two-time MVP against a guy in his first full season as a starter.

“I don’t have any excuses,” Grossman said, then added a legitimate one: “This was my first full season.”

Exactly. This is Manning’s ninth year. The Super Bowl MVP he won for his work on Sunday goes into a trophy case that already has two regular-season MVP awards and clippings about a bunch of NFL passing records, including 49 touchdown passes in the 2004 season.

So once the Indianapolis offense got over its early jitters, Manning was able to pick apart the Chicago defense but Grossman wasn’t able to counter. Final totals: Manning threw for 247 yards, Grossman for 165 — but only 55 in the first three quarters.

That’s one reason that Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said his team wasn’t shaken by Hester’s return to start the game although Dungy is not the sort to denigrate an opponent — and certainly not that opponent’s quarterback.

“It was a tough way to start, but I trusted our offense to come back,” he said.

By “our offense,” he meant Manning, of course, although the words “team game” kept flowing from both coach and QB. But even Dominic Rhodes’ 113 yards rushing and Joseph Addai’s 77 came in part because the Bears were set up to stop Manning.

That resulted in a classic drive that put the Colts ahead for good with 6:15 left in the half.

It started with two passes, one to Marvin Harrison on a crossing pattern that left a linebacker on him, and another to Dallas Clark. Then it was Rhodes on the ground, pounding up the middle for the score: in other words, passes on run downs and runs on passing downs called by Manning at the line of scrimmage.

“He did a great job putting us in good plays,” center Jeff Saturday said.

Even the rain, which was supposed to help the Chicago defense, didn’t benefit either team.

Maybe it caused the mishandled snap that resulted in the aborted extra point on the Colts’ first touchdown. And maybe it was one reason Adam Vinatieri, the best clutch kicker in NFL history, missed a 36-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half.

The rain kept the turnovers coming. So every time the Chicago defense took the ball from the Colts, Indy seemed to get it back the same way.

Then Grossman threw the inevitable duck, Hayden grabbed it and that was that.

“In hindsight, I wish I had thrown it away,” Grossman said. “The timing on it wasn’t right. The corner got his eyes around and made a good throw on it.”

That’s been the story for Grossman all season.;

Most of the time the Bears have survived his errors. This time they couldn’t.

In fact, they seemed so aware of the possibility he’d make them, they had to play a prevent offense.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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