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« Iran installs 328 centrifuges at atomic site: sources | Main | Bush to unveil budget dominated by military, Iraq »

February 05, 2007

Manning seals legacy with Super Bowl win

MIAMI (Reuters) - Peyton Manning added the missing ingredient to his Hall of Fame credentials by leading the Indianapolis Colts to a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI on Sunday.

Mon Feb 5, 2007 5:12am ET

By Steve Ginsburg

Manning, a seven-times All-Pro quarterback slammed by his critics for failing to win when it matters, exorcised his big-game demons by completing 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown in a steady rain at Dolphin Stadium.

"In years' past when our team's come up short, it's been disappointing," Manning, the game's Most Valuable Player, told reporters. "Somehow we found a way to have learned from some of those losses and we've been a better team because of it."

Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy believes the criticism of Manning was unfair but will probably linger.

"Maybe people will say now, 'If he doesn't win two in a row, it's not good enough,'" the coach said.

"But he's done it, he's got it behind him. I don't think there's anything else you can say now other than this guy is a Hall of Fame player and one of the greatest players ever to play the game."

With Indianapolis nursing a five-point lead early in the final period, cornerback Kelvin Hayden picked off a pass by Rex Grossman and returned it 56 yards for a score that increased the Colts' advantage to 29-17.

Grossman's pass toward the right sideline was intended for Muhsin Muhammad and Hayden leaped in front of him before racing down the sideline accompanied by a cordon of blockers.

Chicago's offense, which had sputtered most of the night, never recovered, allowing Dungy to become the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl.

"I thought about all the guys who came ahead of me, who could have done it and didn't get the opportunity," said the 51-year-old Dungy. "I dedicate the game to them."

Grossman completed 20 of 28 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown but had two crucial interceptions in the fourth quarter. The Bears (15-4), seeking their first title since the 1985 season, also lost three fumbles.

"It was slippery," said Grossman, who fumbled twice. "When the ball was snapped up from center, it would just kind of slide off my hands."

Dominic Rhodes had 113 yards on 21 carries for the Colts, who amassed 191 yards on the ground.

The Super Bowl victory was the Colts' first since the 1970 season when the club, playing in Baltimore, defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13.

Indianapolis recovered from a dazzling -- and demoralizing -- 92-yard touchdown on the game's opening kickoff by Bears rookie sensation Devin Hester.

Hester raced up the middle and cut to the outside, needing just 14 seconds to give Chicago a 7-0 lead. It was the first time in the Super Bowl's 41-year history the opening kickoff was returned for a score.

SCORING PASS

"Whenever you come out on the first play of the game and set the tempo, it says a lot," said Hester, who scored six touchdowns on kick returns during the regular season.

"It builds up the team's confidence that we're going to win. But it didn't happen."

Indianapolis (16-4) responded to Hester's score with a 53-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne but the conversion attempt was botched and the Bears held a 7-6 lead.

A four-yard touchdown from Grossman to Muhammad following a fumble by Indianapolis gave the Bears a 14-6 lead with 4:34 left in the opening quarter.

Adam Vinatieri kicked a 29-yard field goal to slice the Bears' lead to 14-9.

Indianapolis took a 16-14 lead, an advantage it never lost, with six minutes left in the half on a one-yard touchdown by Rhodes, capping a seven-play, 58-yard drive.

Two Vinatieri field goals in the third quarter gave the Colts a 22-14 lead before the Bears' Robbie Gould countered with a 44-yarder to trim the Chicago deficit to five.

But the Bears could not close the gap, plagued by turnovers and the slippery conditions.

Chicago coach Lovie Smith, like Dungy an African-American, said he was very disappointed.

"When you turn the ball over as much as we did, it's really hard to win," he said. "We got off to a great start and had an eight-point lead. The turnovers really did us in tonight."

Posted by Publisher at February 5, 2007 01:12 PM

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