Colts need to rattle Grossman early
John Clayton has been picking the Colts for three years and here are the five things they need to do Sunday to make that prediction finally come true.
Thanks to the head coaching leadership of Tony Dungy of the Colts and Lovie Smith of the Bears, Super Bowl XLI has been Miami Nice.
Dungy and Smith are close friends. Both coaches are religious and good family men. On the field, they are stoic and generally not very emotional. Profanities aren't part of their vocabularies. That attitude is reflected in the way their players have behaved during Super Bowl hype week. There has been no trash talking. Both teams have been respectful of each other. Reports of curfew violations or other problems have been nonexistent.
Vegas favors the Colts by 6½ points and so do I. Why wouldn't I? I've been predicting a Colts Super Bowl for three years. Their date with destiny was delayed by the Patriots' mini-dynasty and a great run in the playoffs last year by the Steelers.
But beyond my belief that this is their year, the Colts will win if
2. The Colts' defense can control its aggressiveness. With a front seven that is smaller than average, but has good speed, the Colts have a tendency to overpursue on run downs. If that happens, Thomas Jones could have a big day. Jones is the most dangerous type of runner against the Colts. He's a cutback runner who reads zone blocking well. If defenders are caught out of position overpursuing they will be destroyed by cutback runs. DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and all of the Colts linebackers tend to lose control of their gaps. Manning and the offense could help by jumping out to a big lead, which would pull the Bears away from their running game.
4. Their special teams can find a way to not blow the game. Obviously, kicker Adam Vinatieri is money when the Colts need a key field goal. If they need to punt, they are in good shape with Hunter Smith. The concern is the coverage units, and it's a big concern. Devin Hester is the most dangerous returner since Deion Sanders in his prime time and Dante Hall in his early years. Hester can give the Bears field position or touchdowns, and the Colts can't afford for that to happen. They need directional punts and perhaps squib kickoffs to make sure Hester isn't a big player in this game.
5. Their defense shuts down Rex Grossman and doesn't allow him to gain confidence early in the game. Grossman seems to be either hot or cold, but not in the middle. Grossman can be dangerous throwing the ball deep, but the Colts' two-deep zone should prevent Grossman from burning them on too many deep passes. The Bears don't need Grossman to win the game for them, they just need him to not make a bunch of mistakes. The Colts have an aggressive defense and if Freeney or Mathis can get to Grossman early and force him into a bad throw or a fumble, it could go downhill fast for the Bears' quarterback.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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