The Colts’ supposedly soft defense and finesse offense pounded the burly Bears into submission, trampling them with a power-running game and a short passing attack. Indianpolis then shut down the running attack Chicago had relied on all year.
In the end, that hard-nosed, old-school approach is what made Dungy the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl and left his long-time friend, Bears' coach Lovie Smith, conceding that his mentor had out-thought him while Dungy's team had out-fought him.
"You have to give them a lot of credit,'' said Smith, who came to the NFL as an assistant to Dungy when both were in Tampa. "They had a great game plan coming in. They were able to make some big plays on us and we didn't tackle as well as we normally do.''
That's because much of the time they were knocked flat by a surging Colts' offensive line that abandoned their favorite running play, the stretch, in favor of straight ahead runs taken from the Bears' repertoire. The Colts' short passes also exploited a Chicago secondary that repeatedly dropped its safeties and linebackers too deep into coverage.
"We talked last night about how everyone was going to talk about their defense and our offense,'' Dungy said. "We felt like defense and special-teams wise we could win the game. Our defense has played that way in the playoffs. They never got rattled. They hit. They were physical. The mindset was we can win the game (on defense) if we need to. We had to run the ball and play defense against a team that that is what they do. That says a lot about us.''
The Colts dominated the line of scrimmage and the time of possession, holding the ball 16 minutes longer than the Bears and running off 33 more plays (81 to 48). Chicago was outgained by 165 yards and had half as many first downs (24 to 11). Dungy seemed to have his team a step ahead once they recovered from a shocking opening moment — Indianapolis lost the toss and kicked off to the Bears' Devin Hester, who fourteen seconds and 92 yards later was in the end zone. It was the kind of play the Colts had feared but Dungy had prepared them for it, warning them they would face advesity at some point during the game.
"We just kept grinding it out,'' said Colts' guard Jake Scott, after Indianapolis' two running backs, Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai, had combined for 191 rushing yards, most of it between the tackles, against the NFC's top-ranked run defense. "We saw that in the previous Bears' games, like the Seattle game, they took it to them late in the game. They were knocking them off the ball. We said to ourselves watching film all week that we could do that, too.''
The Colts did it using a surprisingly straight forward running attack that pounded the Bears' defense inside the tackles. The Bears became frustrated and determined not to be beaten by the deep pass from Peyton Manning. Instead, Dungy and his staff had Manning do a Tom Brady imitation, dinking and dunking short balls in front of the Bears' defense.
"They play a lot of zone coverage and those linebackers drop deep,'' Manning said. "You've got to be able to throw short underneath. We threw them and ran for some yards after the catch.''
All night the Bears' defense seemed off-balance and unsure of what was coming next. While it was running coverages to prevent the deep pass, they were being dissected by the short ones. And when they kept looking for the Colts' signature stretch play, they instead found themselves knocked straight back by a power running game for which they had no answers.
"I think Peyton understood a lot of things that we wanted to do defensively and that's what good quarterbacks do. They make adjustments and they play."
It's also what good coaches do and the defense Smith runs in Chicago is one he learned from Dungy. The student learned it well but not quite as thoroughly as the teacher. At least not this night.
The Colts' defense was all over the Bears' running game, taking away the weapon they had relied on all season, and putting their fate in the hands of erratic quarterback Rex Grossman. Grossman ended up throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice, and was never able to figure out how his running game was being shut down so thoroughly.
"Football teaches you a lot about life," said Anthony McFarland, who played for Dungy in Tampa before the Colts traded for him in October to help shore up what was at the time a leaky defense. "Sometimes you're going to struggle. Sometimes you're going to go through things that you might not want to go through, but if you stay the course and continue doing what you believe, in good things will happen.
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