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The Baby Bananas Quick & Dirty Guide to Super Bowl XLI*

February 1, 2007

*This is the second annual Quick & Dirty Guide to the Super Bowl and it’s content is geared towards those not entirely familiar with the sport (for the less than dim, “the sport” being football). Use this helpful guide to help you choose a team to root for at your Super Bowl festivities—hopefully not based on the color of the uniforms, loveliness (or lack thereof) of the quarterback, or the proximity of where the team plays to where your father grew up.

A quick question before we get started, doesn’t “XLI” sound like it should be the name of some Asian stripper or happy-ending giver?  I’m just sayin’.

THE TEAMS

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The Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears play the 41st Super Bowl in Miami, FL. The odds have Indy favored by 7 points mainly because…well that is the question of the year isn’t it? If I were a betting woman, I would so take the Bears on that spread. My guess is that the official line moves to at least 6.5 before game time (and in case you are wondering, I would NOT take those odds).

Indianapolis
NICKNAME: The Baltimore Colts (kidding!).
Beginning their life as the Baltimore Colts, the boys in “speed blue” (their team color), were fairly prolific. After relenting to fan pressure, a third and final, Baltimore Colts team was resurrected in 1953 and it is this team that holds the title for three NFL Championships (prior to the AFL/NFL merger) as well as Super Bowl V. However, once the team packed their things into moving vans and set off in the dead of night for Indianapolis, the Colts franchise has been less than lucky—before this year, they have never been able to get past the Conference Championship games—Baltimore fans will surely say this is “karmatic” payback and will most likely be rooting for the Bears come Sunday. Prior to the Manning era under Tony Dungy, the Indianapolis Colts weren’t much of a team. Under these two, and with some huge offensive talent, the Colts of recent history have come to be an amazing force in the regular-season…just not so much in the post-season before this year.

Chicago
NICKNAMES: Da Bears (originating from recurring SNL skit throughout the ‘90s spoofing a local Chicago radio show) and Monsters of the Midway.
Beginning their life in 1919 as the Decatur Staleys, the Bears began as a company team for the A.E. Staley Company.  In 1920, they became a charter member of the NFL. The next year, Staley sold his team and the name to George Halas (whose family still owns the Bears) and the team moved to Chicago where they played at Wrigley Field (known then, as Cubs Park) under the name of the Chicago Staleys. The following year, Halas decided since they were playing where the Chicago Cubs played, why not become the “Chicago Bears” and then, paying homage to the Fighting Illini of the University if Illinois, the team adopted the colors of blue and orange. Da Bears had many early successes before the 1970 merger, but have only one won Championship since, Super Bowl XX – spawning the (in)famous
Super Bowl Shuffle. Not having success after that ’85 season, the Bears fired coach Mike Ditka and went through a bunch of lack luster seasons before hiring Lovie Smith two years ago.

THE SEASON
Indianapolis finished 12-4 and had to play their way through the playoffs as San Diego and Baltimore finished with the first-round byes. Indy’s season was plagued with defensive ineptitude until the last few weeks of the season—ranking 21 out of 32 in total defense. But they stepped it up when it counted and produced solid, if not stellar defensive tactics against their last three opponents. Prior to this defensive stand, the game winning has come from the offense—and it’s been that offense that has dominated the league (again though, we’re talking regular season here). Boasting the second-rated passer and two of the top five wide receivers and an effective rushing game — it’s just way too hard to contain that many weapons.

Chicago finished 13-3, proving that last season’s success was no a fluke. Boasting the leagues second scoring offense and third best defense, it seems like the Bears are a total package team. But with an unpredictable QB, Bears fans are left wondering which Rex will show up on any given Sunday. Subscribing to the bend but don’t break philosophy of defense, Chicago was able to keep teams out of the end zone quite frequently throughout the season. With no standout stars on the team like we see on the Colts, the Bears present a true team effort in every game.

THE PLAYERS – by position

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Indianapolis
Quarterback – Peyton “Can you sign my melon” Manning
You either love him or hate him. But either way you cannot deny his prowess, he is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game. Ever. He calls his own plays, much unlike the rest of the NFL QBs who get help with the play calling over their mic’ed up helmets and then check them against the cheat sheets pasted to their forearms. Not Peyton. On top of that, he’s famous for calling audibles, when you see the team lined up on the field and he’s standing back there yelling and waving his arms…that is what he is doing, he’s changing the play that he had just called in the huddle. He even known for calling audibles on his audibles. 

Running backs – Jospeh Addai and Dominick Rhodes. 
Addai is a rookie and Rhodes has been in the league for 6 seasons, all with the Colts. There is nothing really remarkable about either of these running backs – other than their steady ability to gain positive yardage. Look for Addai to take some passes and shoot through holes at the line of scrimmage, Rhodes will plug away at the tougher yardage. Manning will use whomever is getting better (read: less) defensive coverage.

Receivers – Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne
You could call Harrison the “anti T.O.”. Some may be unfamiliar with him, that is if you’re not watching football too often, he is easy to miss (you know, except for 60+ yard touch down passes, even those look easy though). But make no mistake, he will be going to the Hall of Fame one day. He’s been in the NFL for 11 years (all with the Colts) but he is known for his shyness with the media and his aversion for antics. Unless you like pure football, you won’t ever notice him. Reggie Wayne is probably the best #2 wide receiver in the league. He is so good, he is better than many of the #1 receivers out there. Again, look for Manning to exploit the coverage…I can’t think of team that has enough dominant, down the field coverage to cover both of these guys.

Defense – A topic of discussion as of late. As I mentioned above, they’ve been less than stellar this year – many will say downright awful. But something clicked against Kansas City and they’ve been on fire ever since. Look for the one stand out, Dwight Freeney, to try and wreak some havoc on the Bears O. He’ll be the one with arms waving, flying around behind the line of scrimmage, trying to pummel Rex Grossman.

The “X” factor – Too many offensive weapons. Manning has his pick of point getters (more than I’ve listed here), and if all goes cleanly the Colts have an amazing number of players that can score on any given play.

Chicago
grossman_inside072505.jpg
Quarterback – Rex Grossman
In his first full season (but his third overall), Grossman’s play was a bit of a roller coaster ride for the team and the topic of much criticism. Earning a passer rating of 100 or better in 7 of 16 games, he coupled that with a sub 50 rating for five games – including one game of a 0.0 rating. Lovie Smith stuck by his man though, and started him every game much to the chagrin of most Chicagoans. A kid with a good arm, he just needs to stay focused and not made dumb plays for the Bears to stay competitive…he just has to understand that not all on-field problems are solved with a long pass – a point he seemed to master in the game against the Seahawks last month.

Running backs – Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones
Jones is the cutter of the duo, he’s going to be the guy that leaps and runs from side to side in effort to gain every single inch of turf he can. Benson is going to plow into whatever is in front of him and most likely move them out of his way (or take them with him). The Bears used their backs differing styles to their advantage in the last play off game, going to Benson when the Saints were tackling for short or no yardage and then back to Jones when running up the middle stopped working for them. Should be more of the same this Sunday.

Receivers – Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad
When you hear the Chicago fans chant what sounds like “Boooooooo”, it’s probably more likely “Muuuuuuuuu”; a cheer for Muhsin Muhammad. Although not the main receiving target that Berrian is, Muhammad is a smart receiver who has the ability to make plays when getting throws from either Good Rex or Bad Rex. Berrian is the more artistic receiver of the two and is usually Grossman’s target for the long ball.

Defense – They’re not scary, but they do what a good defense is supposed to do—stop the ball. Anchored by Chicago darling, Brian Urlacher, the defense is gearing up for the inevitable no huddle play that the Colts thrive on. What Bears thrive on is pressuring the QB, something that Manning doesn’t handle to well. If the Bears can get in the back field early as well as often, this will prove to be a really close game.

The “X” factor – Devin Hester
A key standout on special teams, look for this guy to make explosive runs up the field after the Colts kick the ball away on punts and kick-offs. He holds the league’s TD record for kick returners, with 5 this season…he even had two in one game. He has a tendency to fumble (think Tiki Barber some years back), but his skills at running into a line of 11 angry men far out way his propensity to drop the ball.

THE COACHES: This is the first Super Bowl for both coaches, and in case you’ve been living under a rock this is the first Super Bowl in history to have a black-coached team participating. I wonder, does Lovie get the “first black Super Bowl” tag since his team had the early play off game two weeks ago? Indianapolis

– Tony Dungy, credited with bringing the Cover 2 defense back to life. Long heralded as a defensive genius, he got his break by getting promoted out of Minnesota, where he was Defensive Coordinator, to the head coaching job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then later as head coach for the Colts. Let’s note here that the Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII the year after he was fired. The man’s got a good amount of post-season experience, just not very many wins. Respected by fans, players, sports pundits and front office personnel alike, many will be rooting for the Colts just to see him win. (That is, to see him win as a coach—for he already has a ring for Super Bowl XIII think Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swan, when he played as a safety for the Steelers defeat over the Cowboys.)

Chicago
– Lovie Smith, coaching spawn of Tony Dungy (meaning that Dungy gave him his first NFL job, as linebacker coach for the Buccaneers).  A seemingly unflappable coach, it’s rare to see him express extreme ranges of emotion on the sidelines or in the press room. He took over as coach for the Bears in 2004 and has made quiet, but steady, way to the top of the football chain. Under much skepticism, he stayed true to his faltering quarterback (Grossman) this season and will be looking for an “I told you so” type win this Sunday – or maybe that’s just what I would do, “nanny nanny boo boo! Idiots!”, but hell I would have benched the kid sometime in December so what do I know?

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2007 5:06 pm

    It is 5:06pm and I have not heard a news story all day about Dungy and Smith being black. I think it’s a record.

  2. February 1, 2007 6:31 pm

    The hype has been killing me…but you know what…it’s just us (people like us). I was at the store last night and the checkout girl was entirely too surprised to kind out that the actual Super Bowl was this weekend. She didn’t understand why Harris Teeter had a football display at the front of the store!

  3. February 1, 2007 6:46 pm

    Seriously? I understand not watching or being a fan (well, kinda understand but not really), but how can you not know?! Unreal.

  4. February 2, 2007 11:05 am

    I forgot, if it weren’t for our chili cook off at work, which we have Super Bowl week, I wouldn’t have known I am sure.

    Mish, when do you have time to write all this craziness???

  5. February 2, 2007 12:10 pm

    How was that “quick and dirty” ??

    shew, im still readin’ here.

    😛

  6. February 2, 2007 12:23 pm

    I-66 I have no idea. How do you not know? It makes my head hurt trying to understand it.

    Harms I’ve been writing it on my lunch hour for the past week or so. I am lame, I know.

    Tricia – I was waiting for someone to call me out on it. It’s not quick, not even close. I thought of putting a disclaimer on there, saying that I lied…but that just would have added to my word count 🙂

  7. Anonymous permalink
    February 2, 2007 2:48 pm

    How can you even show a picture of Peyton without the moustache ?

  8. February 2, 2007 8:04 pm

    Interesting tidbit about how the Bears came up with their colors.

    The Atlanta Falcons went about it in similar fashion. Their original colors were meant to honor both the Univeristy of Georgia and Georgia Tech, so their colors were red, black, white, and gold (the gold was primarily an accent color, used in the striping). The gold was ultimately dropped and the Falcons have been primarily red and black ever since.

  9. February 4, 2007 2:56 am

    If only we were still playing fantasy, you’d have a useful, as well as superb scouting report here.

    Baltimore Colts. ha!

  10. February 5, 2007 8:51 pm

    Phil – I was wowed by the fact that the Bears ownership has not changed families…McClusky (sp?) is the grand-daughter of Halas. And I bet a lot of teams procured their color schemes from local schools.

    beaker – Thanks! But, SB fantasy? My neighbor doesn’t go as deep as the SB, but his league does re-draft for the playoffs. Augh! And I wonder if the Baltimore Colts had anything to do with the SB crowd being 2/3 Bears fans…

  11. February 7, 2007 9:36 am

    Do you ever wonder if this style is more effective in Japanese? Something’s got to be lost in the transliteration.

    Heh….wonder what your poems would come out as in Japanese? Wouldn’t that be wild…….now to find someone who can translate to Japanese.

    BTW, Gratz on the move to WordPress.

  12. February 7, 2007 9:42 pm

    Oh look! I put my comment under the wrong post.

    How loverly.

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