[2/6/07: Most Valuable or Most Popular] In today’s NFL, shaped by legends Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue, and run by Roger Goodell with a year now under his belt, flaws are few and far between. However, one of them can be found on the league’s biggest game, on the nation’s largest stage: letting fans vote for the Super Bowl’s most valuable player. While the diehard and established fans vote for the deserving players, the newest faces in the country’s largest fan-base only check the box next to the household names, the face of the franchise. Happy birthday, Peyton Manning, this year’s your turn!
On Sunday, February 4, Manning was met in his first Super Bowl with less-than-desirable conditions, as rain and mud prevailed over Super Sunday, forcing an abnormal amount of turnovers for the top teams from each conference. Like a true veteran, Manning did what he had to do, not spectacularly, but just enough to get a twelve-point victory in the game’s biggest game, silencing the critics forever. Although Manning was the big-name player, many experts believe that he was not the reason for a 29-17 win. That honor would fall to the two tireless horses that lined up behind him (or, in the prominent shotgun set, next to him), in the backfield. Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai turned in a great performance in the rain and slop, by not giving the game away like Rex Grossman and the Bears did.
It’s not like the extremely-hyped Manning had a bad game; he threw for 247 yards and a score, on a wide-open pass down the left side of the field to first-time Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne. The score was very important for the morale of the team, since Devin Hester had returned an opening kickoff for a touchdown just four and a half minutes ago. Although Manning’s yards look good on paper, you would imagine that Marvin Harrison and Wayne would have had a pretty good workout. That, however, was not the case on Sunday, as Rhodes and Addai combined four eleven receptions, for 74 yards, most coming from yards after the catch on little swing passes that were necessary because of the playing conditions. Also, Manning threw an ill-timed interception with 12:48 left in the first quarter, when Indianapolis was already down by a touchdown. In addition, Chicago scored one of their two touchdowns on a drive that started after a Manning fumble at the Bears’ forty-one yard line.
The most potent weapon that the Colts possessed in the Super Bowl was not a player headed to Hawaii, but a part-time back that has, in the past, shared the workload with Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai. Dominic Rhodes looked for holes in the Bears’ vaunted defense throughout the game, and usually found them. When drives looked to be heading for an end, Rhodes always made sure to get an extra burst through the line, and, eventually, weakened and tired the Chicago front seven. Rhodes also went through the right side for a go-ahead touchdown with about nine minutes left in the second quarter, putting the Colts up for good. He also contributed with an eight point gain on one catch from Manning.
Rhodes’ partner in crime was almost just as dangerous, but in a different dimension of the game. Joseph Addai hauled in more passes than future Hall of Fame wide receiver and Reggie Wayne combined in Miami, and had a 6.6 yards per catch average. When the Chicago defense were victorious in covering the Colt receivers, Manning found Addai again and again underneath, and, unlike the Bears’ running backs, he turned the short pass into a big gain, and kept drives going. Addai didn’t only do his damage in the passing game; he rushed for 77 yards on 19 carries. Together, the Colts backfield was dominant, and more importantly, had zero turnovers the entire game.
Maybe, just maybe, if the fans had turned their one-track eyesight off of Peyton Manning for a few plays and saw what great contributions that Rhodes and Addai made, we would have seen a four-legged monster holding up the MVP trophy at the end of the game. Then, the toughest part of what seemed to be an almost easy game would have turned to difficult, with the most difficult being: who would take the keys to the Cadillac home? It would have only been fitting for them to share it, as well as the trophy, because they definitely shared the load in the biggest game of their respective careers, en route to a fulfilling victory.