Super Bowl XLI: No choke as Manning leads Colts to paradise

Mercurial quarterback silences critics to hunt down Bears and earn Super Bowl glory, writes Glenn Moore in Miami

When Peyton Manning is inducted into the Hall of Fame, as has long seemed inevitable, he will now be able to enter the NFL's Valhalla without an asterisk against his name, the one indicating a footnote that would have read "choked in the big ones".

Manning finally dispelled all doubts in collecting the MVP award late Sunday night after leading the Indianapolis Colts to an ultimately comfortable 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

In his nine seasons in Indiana, Manning, son of the New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie, brother of the New York Giants quarterback Eli, has compiled the stats to match any of the great playmakers of the gridiron. He can now put a Super Bowl ring, and set of car keys won as MVP, on the table as well.

The Cadillac could just as easily have gone to the Colts centre Jeff Saturday, who led an offence which provided Manning with superb protection, or the running back Dominic Rhodes, who rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown as the Bears were hunted down in the rain. That it went to Manning was doubtless in part for his celebrity, as is often the case, but more important was his astonishing composure at the line of scrimmage, his maturity in picking the right option, and a superb touchdown pass which gave the Colts reason to believe.

Manning's calm under pressure was needed after the opening minute when the Bears conjured up a stunning opening. All week the Colts, having had their kick coverage exposed by the Patriots' Ellis Hobbs in the AFC Championship game, had been reminding themselves not to kick the ball to the Bears' Devin Hester. Adam Vinatieri, who with three Super Bowl rings in his locker should have known better, promptly sent the kick-off straight at the rookie. Seconds later, Vinatieri was sprawled on the grass as Hester, having weaved through the cover, passed by the kicker to score a 92-yard touchdown return, his seventh of the season and the first from a Super Bowl kick-off. There were 14 seconds on the clock. Vinatieri learned fast. Subsequent restarts were grubbers, none of which went to Hester.

It took seven minutes for the Colts to respond, during which time Manning gave up his only interception. Undeterred, he masterminded an 80-yard drive capped by a magnificent 53-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne. This was thrown despite Tank Johnson, the Bears' fearsome defensive tackle, having grabbed Manning's non-throwing left arm. Wayne's joy followed a tough few months. In October, his elder brother, Rashad, was killed in a road accident.

The extra point was aborted after Hunter Smith failed to set the ball for Vinatieri. A subsequent brace of fumbles, one each side, underlined the effect the weather was having. The Sunshine State delivered the wettest Super Bowl by far. Rain fell most of the day and did so continuously during the match, drenching the majority of the 74,512 spectators: Dolphin Stadium lacks roofing, thus Billy Joel, who sang the national anthem, and Prince, who did the half-time show, were also soaked.

In many sports, poor weather levels the playing field but, in Miami, the conditions merely emphasised the gulf in class between Manning and Rex Grossman. Manning, however, also said his measured performance was a consequence of the thumb injury he suffered against the Patriots. "It's bruised and I couldn't grip [the ball] real hard, but when it is raining you're not supposed to grip it hard so maybe I got lucky," he said.

Not that the Bears went down without a growl. A Colts fumble, after Joseph Addai failed to hold Manning's hand-off, led to the Bears' second touchdown. After Thomas Jones, who ran 112 yards in total, drove into Indianapolis territory, Grossman found Muhsin Muhammad with a short pass. This was to prove the high point of Grossman's night. As Bears fans had feared, and critics predicted, the inconsistent quarterback went from Good Rex, to Bad Rex, to Train Rex.

Vinatieri, with three field goals to Robbie Gould's one, and Rhodes, running 14 yards on four plays in a seven-play 58-yard touchdown drive, put the Colts 16-14 ahead at half-time and 22-17 after the third quarter. Though still in the game theoretically, Chicago were wiped out physically and mentally. In the middle quarters, the Colts had 21 minutes' possession to the Bears' eight and Manning was picking them apart. It showed. With 13 minutes remaining, Grossman tried to find Muhammad on the right but Kelvin Hayden, making the first interception of his pro career, stole the ball and ran away for a 56-yard touchdown. This was game over, a fact underlined when a Grossman pass was intercepted by the Colts' jack-in-a-box safety Bob Sanders, at 5ft 8in the shortest man on the field.

The Chicago masses, damply huddled under plastic ponchos, drifted away, back to a city experiencing a bitter chill. Tony Dungy, the first black coach to win a Super Bowl, and only the third man to win as player and coach (he was a safety with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII), was given an ice bath by his team. Then, in a revealing indication of the NFL hierarchy, the Vince Lombardi trophy was presented not to Dungy, nor Manning, nor any of the other 43 Colts who battled in the trenches, but to the franchise owner - the Super Bowl win is Indianapolis' first major sporting achievement since the Indiana Pacers won the then ABA in 1973. But perhaps Jim Irsay deserved it. Unlike the Glazers at Tampa, he has stuck by Dungy and overseen such a stable outfit only one assistant coach has left in five years. Dungy devoted much of his post-game comments to the subject of his religious faith, which must have been tested after his son's suicide 14 months ago.

For those of more temporal mind, Irsay's faith in Dungy, Dungy's faith in Manning, and Manning's faith in his team was more significant.

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice