Always labeled the guy who couldn't win the big game, Manning finally silenced all doubters Sunday, throwing for 247 yards and a touchdown as the Indianapolis Colts picked apart the Chicago Bears' defense on the way to a 29-17 victory in Super Bowl XLI.
Manning, who earned game MVP honors, showed a lot of patience, connecting underneath the Bears' defense all night with rookie running back Joseph Addai, who consistently broke tackles and moved the chains. Veteran Dominic Rhodes also was a big key, rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown as the Colts controlled the football for more than 38 minutes.
The much-maligned Colts' defense deserves a lot of the credit as well, never allowing Rex Grossman and the Bears offense to get on track.
And on a rain-soaked night in Miami, it was Manning, head coach Tony Dungy, and the Colts who hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy and walked away with that once-elusive NFL championship.
Things didn't always look so promising for the Colts though. The Bears jumped on the board quickly when rookie Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 93 yards, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead just 14 seconds into the game. And when Manning tossed an interception on the Colts' opening drive, the Bears seemed to be in business again. But Chicago failed to capitalize on the turnover, and quickly punted the ball back to the Colts.
Indianapolis then patiently chipped their way down the field before Manning connected with wide receiver Reggie Wayne for 53 yards and a touchdown on the ninth play of the drive. A botched hold on the snap foiled the PAT attempt, leaving the Colts still trailing by one point.
Not willing to risk another big return by Hester, the Colts decided to squib the ensuing kickoff, and it paid off better than expected when up man Gabe Reid fumbled the return. The sloppy play appeared to be catching, though, as Manning returned the favor on the very next play with a bobbled handoff that was recovered by Chicago DE Mark Anderson.
Veteran running back Thomas Jones opened up the Bears' next scoring drive with a 52-yard burst down the right sideline, and three plays later, Grossman connected with WR Muhsin Muhammad for a four-yard score to open up an eight-point lead.
From that point on, however, the Colts took control. The Bears' final five possessions in the first half resulted in two turnovers and three three-and-outs. The Colts, on the other hand, put a field goal and another touchdown on the board, a one-yard plunge by Rhodes, to take the lead before halftime.
Indianapolis opened things up in the third quarter with two lengthy scoring drives that ate up most of the third quarter and stretched the lead to 22-14.
The Bears cut the lead with a 44-yard Robbie Gould field goal, but a Kelvin Hayden interception of a poorly-thrown Grossman pass all but sealed the deal when the Colts' cornerback returned it 56 yards for a touchdown.
The Colts surprisingly appeared to wear down a Bears team that most believed was the more physical of the two clubs. And a failure to protect the football simply did the Bears in.
With the win, Tony Dungy becomes the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl.
Manning finished the game 25-of-38 for 247 yards and one touchdown.