MIAMI (Feb. 4, 2007) -- The Bears came into Super Bowl XLI hoping to use their running game to keep Peyton Manning off the field, but instead it was the Colts who had the ball most of the game. Chicago ended up with only 19 rushing attempts, 12 fewer than their regular-season average. The Bears did end up with a respectable 111 yards on the ground, although 52 of those came on a single Thomas Jones run in the first quarter. On their 18 other carries, the Bears gained 59 yards. "It's not that they really controlled our running game," said Jones. "We just couldn't really get into a rhythm. We didn't convert on third downs. That's the major thing that hurt us in the game on offense." The Bears finished the game only 3 for 10 in third-down conversions, while Indy was 8 for 18. That was a big reason the Colts had a 38:04-21:56 edge in time of possession. And Cedric Benson's first Super Bowl appearance turned out to be one to forget. The Bears' second-year running back left the game in the first quarter when he injured his left knee on a 4-yard run. It was Benson's second carry of the game. On the first, Benson fumbled when he was hit by safety Bob Sanders, and Dwight Freeney recovered for the Colts. Incidentally, Bears tackle John Tait also was slow to get up on the play where Benson was injured, but he stayed in the game. Where'd ya go? Bears rookie Devin Hester should not have been surprised the Colts kicked away from him after he returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, but that didn't make it any less difficult to handle. "It's very frustrating," he said. "It can't get any better than this; the NFL is the highest football there is. For teams to kick away from you is very hard to take." On one kickoff return, Hester lined up in front of deep man Rashied Davis and the two quickly switched places as Adam Vinatieri approached the ball. But backup running back Adrian Peterson wound up fielding that kickoff. On his only kickoff return, Hester became the first player to open a Super Bowl with a touchdown. "It was just setting up the blocks," Hester said. "My teammates always do that, they made great blocks. It wasn't anything more than just hitting it up in there and trying to get to the end zone." Hard to handle now The Bears defense blamed poor tackling more than anything else for its failure to slow down the Colts offense. The 430 yards allowed by the Bears represented the most yards they'd given up all season, except for the Monday night game at St. Louis, when they allowed 433. "We just couldn't make the plays we needed to make and we didn't do a good job of tackling," said linebacker Brian Urlacher. "We played the Cover Two, and one of the weaknesses of a Cover Two defense is the checkdowns, and Peyton (Manning) knows that and he executed well. He threw a lot of checkdowns, but really we needed to do a better job of tackling." The Bears turned their thoughts to next year right after the game, and cornerback Charles Tillman provided himself with a little extra motivation by staying on the field and watching the Colts' postgame celebration. "I wanted to see what it looked like because I obviously don't know what it feels like," Tillman said. "Disappointment is my personal trainer. The feeling that I have right now is more than enough to motivate me so that we can get back and win the Super Bowl." Weather or not The Bears were expected to have an advantage in poor weather conditions, but it was the Colts who made the fewer mistakes in the steady rain at Dolphin Stadium. The guys from Chicago weren't about the blame the weather for their sloppy performance. Said wide receiver Bernard Berrian: "We get nasty weather in Chicago. This is nothing for us." Missed you Backup linebacker Rod Wilson, who sustained a hamstring injury, during the Bears' Friday practice, was inactive for the first time since being promoted from the practice squad on Sept. 26. The other Bears inactives were WR Justin Gage, S Tyler Everett, S Nick Turnbull, FB J.D. Runnels, C/G Anthony Oakley and DT Antonio Garay. Kyle Orton was the third quarterback. Odds and ends The Bears failed to get a first down on their last four possessions of the first half. ... Bears WR Muhsin Muhammad became the third player to score Super Bowl touchdowns with two different teams. He joined Ricky Proehl and Jerry Rice. ... The Bears became the 14th different losing team in the last 14 Super Bowls. Sweetness Walter Payton still holds a special place in the hearts of Bears fan. Fans held up a sign with a picture of Payton that read, "This one is for Walter." Emotional support The Bears had a decided advantage in terms of crowd support, and any showing of a Chicago player or highlights on the high-definition scoreboard drew loud cheers. When team captains were introduced before the pregame coin toss, Muhammad was greeted with a loud "Moooooose." Alain Poupart is associate editor at Curtis Publishing Company, which produces Dolphin Digest, Steelers Digest, Eagles Insider and Draft Digest.
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