MIAMI - Tony Dungy, beaming and sporting an NFL champions cap, waded through the mob on the soggy field until he found his quarterback, Peyton Manning.
And there they stood in the rain, the winning Super Bowl coach and the MVP, finally savoring a moment that was a long time coming.
A wet and wild night of Super Bowl firsts brought Dungy, Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to the top of the NFL with a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
A team built for indoors found its footing on a rain-soaked track. The Colts were far less sloppy, particularly their star quarterback, who proved he can indeed win the big game — the biggest game.
“Peyton is a tremendous player, a great leader,” Dungy said. “He prepares, he works, does everything you can do to win games and lead your team. If people think he needed to win a Super Bowl, that is just wrong. This guy is a Hall of Fame player and one of the greatest ever to play.”
And now he is a champion. So is his coach.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Manning, who hit 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and one interception. “I’m proud to be part of this team. We stuck together, won this game for our leader, Tony Dungy.”
Dungy became the first black coach to win the championship, beating good friend and protege Lovie Smith in a game that featured the first two black coaches in the Super Bowl.
“It feels great. I thought about that as I was on the podium,” Dungy said. “Being the first African-American coach to win it. I have to dedicate to some guys before me — great coaches I know could have done this if they had gotten the opportunity. Lovie and I were able to take advantage of it. We certainly weren’t the most qualified.”
Dungy’s ring wasn’t the only first. It also was the first rainy Super Bowl and the first time an opening kickoff was run back for a touchdown, when sensational Bears rookie Devin Hester sped downfield for 92 yards.
And not since the Buffalo Bills self-destructed with nine turnovers in losing to Dallas 14 years ago had there been so much messiness. The first half was marred by six turnovers, three for each team. Even football’s most clutch kicker, Adam Vinatieri, missed a chip-shot field goal for the Colts, who botched an extra point attempt, too.
When much-maligned Bears quarterback Rex Grossman’s wobbly pass was picked off and returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Kelvin Hayden with 11:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, it was over.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” Dungy said. “We took the hit early with Devin Hester. We talked about it; it’s going to be a storm. Sometimes you have to work for it. Our guys played so hard and I can’t tell you how proud I am of our group, our organization and our city.”
Chicago (15-4), which led the league in takeaways this season, finished with five turnovers, including two interceptions by Grossman.
“A frustrating loss,” Grossman said. “There were definitely opportunities for us to take that game, and we didn’t do it.”
The Colts (16-4) will take it. It’s their first title since the 1970 season, when they played in Baltimore.
It also was a validation of Dungy’s leadership. He helped build Tampa Bay, one of the NFL’s worst franchises, into a contender before being fired after the 2001 season. The next year, the Bucs won the Super Bowl under Jon Gruden.
Sunday finally was Dungy’s turn. As his players hoisted their coach on their shoulders, he switched his blue Colts cap for a white one that read “NFL champions.” Dungy was carried from the sideline, then was lowered so he could share a long embrace and a handshake with Smith.
“I just told Lovie how proud I was of the moment,” Dungy said
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