And then there were two. The Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts won their games on Sunday to clinch a berth into Super Bowl XLI. 13 days from now, two coaches that are great friends will meet each other in one for the ages. Each game that got the two teams into the Super Bowl was different from the other. The first was close early and a blowout in the end, yet the other was a blowout early and close to finish. The latter however was one of the best games all season, and proved that Peyton can win the big one. Let's see how each game played out on Conference Championships Sunday.
Chicago 39, New Orleans 14
This game appeared that it would be neck and neck for all four quarters. During the first half, Chicago kicked three straight field goals to take a 9-0 lead before finally getting into the endzone. The Bears scored on a Thomas Jones run and looked as though they would be taking a commanding lead into the half. However, New Orleans wasn't about to give up as Drew Brees led the Saints down the field, eventually winding up in the endzone on a TD pass to Marques Colston.
The second half got off to a great start for the Saints. Riding a wave of momentum from their late TD drive to close out the first half, Reggie Bush struck in shocking fashion. Bush caught a relatively short pass from Drew Brees but used his speed and moves to get past the entire Chicago defense. Bush went 88 yards for a touchdown that stunned the Chicago crowd and brought the Saints within two.
With everything going in favor of New Orleans, the Bears needed a big play. They got one when Drew Brees threw a pass away in his own endzone, prompting a flag for intentional grounding. Since the throw was in the endzone, a safety resulted, making the score 18-14 Chicago.
That was exactly what Chicago needed as they never looked back following that play. Rex Grossman would come out and silence critics later on and have a great drive. It was capped off when Grossman hit Bernard Berrian from 33 yards out in an absolutely amazing catch. Berrian fell down behind a defender and caught the ball while on the ground, and then managed to get up to find the extra half a yard or so to score the touchdown. That put Chicago up 25-14 with complete momentum.
Nothing went right for New Orleans after that as Chicago added TD runs by Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones to put things out of reach. The Bears win 39-14 and now head to the Super Bowl. Now all that was left for the NFC champs was to see who their opponent would be.
Indianapolis 38, New England 34
It was all New England in the first half of this game. Everything was going in the favor of Patriots, especially the bounces. To get on the board first, New England looked to score within the 5 yard line. However, on an attempted hand-off, the ball was fumbled and it looked like Indianapolis would easily recover. The ball instead ended up rolling into the endzone where a New England lineman fell on it for the score.
In the second quarter, things really started to look bad for the Colts. Asante Samuel picked off Peyton Manning and ran the ball back 39 yards for the score, making it 21-3 Patriots. The Colts would add a field goal before the end of the half, but the score was still 21-6, making it look like the Pats were on their way to a Super Bowl.
This is why you play the entire game. The second half was a completely different story for Indianapolis. The Colts got two straight touchdowns in the third quarter on a 1 yard run by Peyton Manning and a touchdown pass to defensive lineman Dan Klecko. On the second touchdown, Indy went for 2 and got it to tie the game at 21.
The Patriots managed to answer back to retake the lead on a great catch by Jabar Gaffney. It was ruled a force out, meaning that Gaffney would've gotten two feet down had the defender not been there.
Heading into the final quarter, Indianapolis was on a mission to win this game. Plus, the bounces were now going the Colts way. Jeff Saturday recovered a fumble by Indianapolis inside the 1 yard line after it had rolled into the endzone. That TD notched things up at 28 apiece and set up a great finish.
The two teams traded field goals and then the Patriots added one late to take a 34-31 lead. Peyton Manning had his chance to etch his name into history with a Brady-esque drive of his own. Could Peyton finally step it up to win over his enemies? The answer is yes. Manning led the Colts down the field to eventually score on a 3 yard run by Joseph Addai. Colts lead 38-34 with 1 minute exactly to go.
As we have seen so many times in the past, it would only be fitting for Tom Brady to take the Pats down the field once more to win in comeback fashion. However, as the Patriots were moving the ball down the field, Brady threw a bad pass that was picked off by Marlin Jackson. The ironic thing is Jackson is a former University of Michigan player just as is Tom Brady. The two attended the University just two years apart and now have two teams fates decided by that one play.
Overall, the game was a great one, but it ended by streak of going 1-1 on each day and ultimately made me a disappointing 0-2 on Sunday. Plus, I was rooting for the Patriots due to Tom Brady and his relation to Michigan. Nonetheless, I'm jumping on the Colts bandwagon as they have Cato June and Marlin Jackson, two other former Wolverines.
There you have it, a Bears/Colts Super Bowl. One featuring two coaches that are more than familiar with each other. Also, this is the first time any African-American coach has reached the Super Bowl, and in this one it will have two. It looks like we're in for a treat come February 4th.
Check back here at Pride of Detroit and SB Nation for continuing coverage of Super Bowl XLI.