Sunday, February 4, 2007 Updated: February 5, 12:42 PM ET
Feel-good Colts can't overshadow Bad News Bears
By Gene Wojciechowski ESPN.com
MIAMI -- One Game. One Dream. One really crappy Super Bowl XLI.
Sorry, but it was. That doesn't mean the Indianapolis Colts will cancel their victory parade, but it would have been nice if the Chicago Bears had actually attended the entire game.
I swear the Bears were here earlier in the week. Remember quarterback Rex Grossman calling the media "ignorant" because it supposedly didn't understand how the Chicago offense worked? He's right. I don't understand the Bears' offense. And as it turned out, neither did Grossman.
The Bears would have settled for Bad Rex on Sunday. But this Rex Grossman performance reached new lows.
Forget about Good Rex/Bad Rex. This was Tolerable Rex/Gruesome Rex. It was the kind of Rex who might force the Bears to reassess their long-term quarterback plans. Grossman has only one year left on his contract, and after Sunday evening's mess, you have to wonder how long this marriage can last, or whether the Bears would consider the previously unthinkable: taking a quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft.
The Bears' 29-17 loss wasn't just Grossman's fault. Prince and the Cirque du Soleil acrobats could have tackled better than the Bears' defense. And it's probably just as well the Bears didn't win this thing. They would have fumbled the Lombardi Trophy. They fumbled everything else.
Yeah, this was some game. It was as artistic as a finger painting. The Colts committed three turnovers (one interception, two fumbles), gave up a 92-yard kickoff touchdown return, missed a chippy field goal, botched a point-after attempt -- and they were the winning team! So just imagine how off-the-charts-horrible the Bears were. The NFL should have offered ticket refunds.
After watching the Bears self-destruct at Dolphin Stadium, you wonder how they reached the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl. They saved some of their worst for last. Four fumbles, three lost. Two interceptions. A spectacular busted coverage on a Colts TD pass. Missed tackles. Thirty-three fewer offensive plays. Sixteen minutes less time of possession.
Don't bother asking the Bears how it happened. They were in a bit of a postgame daze.
"Absolutely no idea," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "Your guess is as good as mine."
Guess No. 1: Let's start with Grossman; the Colts did.
According to defensive tackle Raheem Brock, the Colts weren't exactly terrified of Grossman.
"We wanted to make the quarterback beat us," Brock said.
So, with the exception of a 52-yard gain, Indy limited the damage done by starting tailback Thomas Jones. Then it knocked backup Cedric Benson out of the game. Brock figured the Colts had neutralized the Bears' running game "unless [they had] somebody like Bo Jackson, or somebody like that."
They didn't. No Bo. No Rev. Jesse. Nobody, just Grossman.
If Grossman was nervous, he didn't show it. That wasn't the problem. Not tripping over his own feet -- that was a problem. Handling a center snap -- that was a problem. Not throwing the ball to the men in the Colts jerseys -- that was a problem.
Grossman completed 20 of 28 passes for 165 yards, one touchdown and those two interceptions. But so few of the completions were meaningful. He needed to make plays, and for assorted reasons -- not all entirely his fault -- he couldn't. And until he does, opposing teams will dare him to beat them.
"By [no] means, I don't condemn Rex," said Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, adding later, "Are you considered a bad player because you have one bad game?"
"We won the NFC championship with Rex," said Bears defensive end Alex Brown. "Give him a break. Give him a break ... You sure don't hear that type of [criticism] when Tom Brady has a bad game or when Peyton Manning has a bad game."
Well, Brady has three Super Bowl rings and Manning, the Super Bowl MVP, now has one of his very own. Grossman hasn't earned that type of give-him-a-break currency yet. If he had, Bears management would have signed him to an extension by now.
"He's only going to get better," linebacker Brian Urlacher said.
If he does, the Bears could be in Glendale, Ariz., for next season's Super Bowl. If he doesn't, it's another year of Good Rex/Bad Rex. Or Good Brian Griese?
I thought the Bears would somehow squirm their way to a win against the Colts. But I didn't count on the Bears' offense waiting until late in the third quarter to get its fourth first down of the game. And I didn't count on the Bears' defense forgetting how to, you know, tackle.
"It was one of our worst games as far as tackling," Tillman said.
It was one of their worst games as far as anything. When I asked Brown about the Bears' defensive game plan, he didn't seem too interested in discussing strategy.
"Who cares if you stop the run or stop the pass?" he said. "I don't know if we stopped either."
At least he was honest about it. The Bears didn't stop much of anything when it counted. The Colts converted 8 of 18 third-down plays, which is a killer. They ran for 191 yards. And as the game progressed, Manning was his usual precision self.
"We just came up a little bit short on defense," Tillman said.
Tillman needs a lesson in measurements. The Bears came up short on defense, offense and scoreboard. Maybe that's why Tillman stayed on the field during the Colts' postgame celebration and trophy presentation. He didn't want to forget the hurt.
"I will definitely remember how this feeling was," he said.
Anybody who watched this rain-soaked, sloppy game will remember it. It was the game with five first-half turnovers, with back-to-back fumbles twice, and, eventually, with the Colts assuming control and later hoisting a silver trophy covered with raindrops.
"I think we've confused the world," Colts center Jeff Saturday said.
The world? No. But definitely the Bears.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.