NFL: Can Indy’s ‘O’ bear Chicago’s ‘D’?

Max Petrunya

Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith won’t forget to pack beach blankets and suntan lotion as their teams travel to Dolphins Stadium in Miami to square off in Super Bowl XLI in just three days. Both teams return to the NFL’s big dance after hiatuses lasting 20 plus years.

It has been 21 years since the Bears were Super Bowl shuffling in Chicago, having made their last appearance in the NFL Championship in Super Bowl XX, in which they defeated the New England Patriots 46-10. For Indianapolis, this will be the team’s first Super Bowl appearance since making its home in the Midwest. The last time the franchise appeared in the Super Bowl was as the Baltimore Colts more than 30 years ago in Super Bowl V, in which they defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13.

The Colts are looking to earn Indianapolis its first championship, Peyton Manning is looking to earn a place in history and the Bears are looking to earn bragging rights. Here is how each team stacks up for Super Bowl XLI this Sunday.

Indianapolis Colts

Regular Season Record: 12-4Coach: Tony DungyWho they beat to get here: Kansas City, Baltimore and New England

The Colts began the regular season 7-0 before struggling late down the stretch. Finishing the season at 12-4 despite their struggling run defense, the Colts seemed to have created a carbon copy of their previous playoff appearances, disappointing to say the least. This year, however, the Colts have shocked the football world by tightening the screws on defense to complement their high-powered offense, earning them a Super Bowl bid. Beginning with their wild card matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, during which the Colts defense held the amazing Larry Johnson to just 32 yards on 13 carries and forced quarterback Trent Green into three turnovers, everyone on the opposite side of the ball for Colts has been playing lights out this postseason. In their divisional matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, the Colts held the birds to just six total points on two field goals and 233 net total yards. While the Colts offense also sputtered, not scoring a single touchdown and garnering only 15 points on a record-tying five Adam Vinatieri field goals, the defense came up huge in crucial third down situations, allowing the Ravens just two third downs in 11 attempts. In the conference championships against their Achilles’ heel of the playoffs, the New England Patriots, the Colts rallied from an 18-point deficit to defeat the Patriots 38-34.

Momentum certainly favors the Colts coming into Super Bowl XLI, given the fact that Peyton Manning has removed the monkey from his back by defeating the Patriots and making his first Super Bowl appearance. He has thrown for 787 yards this postseason, the most of any quarterback in the NFL and looks to keep on firing in the championship this Sunday. With the best clutch kicker in NFL history, Adam Vinatieri, waiting on the sideline, the Colts have a great chance of winning their first Super Bowl title since making their home in Indianapolis.

Chicago Bears

Regular Season Record: 14-2Coach: Lovie SmithWho they beat to get here: Seattle and New Orleans

Starting the regular season 9-0 and ending with 14 wins, the Chicago Bears showed their worth as the most dominate team in the NFC early in the NFL. Boasting the third-best defense in the league and a reignited offense from the previous season led by Rex Grossman, the Bears march through the postseason to Super Bowl XLI comes as no surprise to most NFL fans. The Bears began their postseason with a thrilling overtime victory over last year’s Super Bowl runner-up Seattle Seahawks in Chicago 27-24. “Sexy Rexy,” as fans call the Bears quarterback, was questioned in his quarterbacking ability coming into this game where he would go on to prove all the naysayers wrong and throw for 282 yards. In the conference championship, Rex threw a touchdown to complement his 144 yards passing as the Bears won 39-14 over “America’s Team 2006,” the New Orleans Saints. The stingy Bears defense kept the Saints to less than 50 yards rushing and forced two turnovers.

The Bears travel to Miami hungry for the title. Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson are a devastating one-two running punch, hoping to make Indy’s recent shut-down defense look like the Swiss Cheese opposition fans saw earlier from the Colts in games against Tennessee and Denver. Brian Urlacher has warned the Colts to look out for the Bears defense this Sunday as they hope to punish Peyton Manning. The X-factor for the Bears this Sunday could be Devin Hester, the rookie special teams sensation from The U (University of Miami). With five special teams touchdowns this season, Hester’s big play potential could provide the Bears with the spark necessary to capture their second NFL title.

The last time the Bears and Colts met was on Nov. 21, 2004 in Chicago. The Colts won 41-10. Vegas currently has the Colts as 7-point favorites over the Bears.