|Super show has different look for Colts, Bears|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 04 September 2008 13:31|
Those distractions are gone.
Less than two years after meeting in Miami to determine a Super Bowl champion, Indianapolis and Chicago will be reunited at the Colts' new palace, Lucas Oil Stadium.
Yes, the memories live on from that game and some familiar names - Manning, Urlacher, Sanders, Hester - are still around for the encore, but it's not a true Super Bowl rematch.
``It is different,'' Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. ``Their team is different. The running backs are different, they have different receivers, the offensive line is different.''
Plenty has changed in just 19 months.
Two-time league MVP Peyton Manning missed six weeks this summer after having an infected bursa sac from his left knee. He didn't play in the preseason and may need to shake off some rust before rounding into form.
Rex Grossman, who led the Bears to the Super Bowl, starts this season on the bench behind Kyle Orton.
Chicago's one-two punch at running back, Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, is gone and the Colts are missing Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, out with a knee injury.
The teams have gone in opposite directions, too.
While the Colts won their fifth straight division title and again reached the playoffs in 2007, the Bears are coming off an injury-plagued season that saw them slide from NFC champions to a 7-9 also-ran.
So what's remained the same? The unforgiving film and, yes, those emotions.
``We've seen a lot of Super Bowl tape this week,'' Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. ``It's still motivation seeing the way things went the last time we met. It's hard to forget about.''
The same thing could be said about Chicago's 2007 season.
The Bears were detoured by a rash of turnovers and injuries on both sides of the ball, prompting a major offensive overhaul.
Orton replaces Grossman, Matt Forte becomes the first rookie running back to start for the Bears since Walter Payton in 1975, and Devin Hester is expected to get more playing time at receiver.
The Colts know how difficult it can be to corral Hester in the open field after he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in Miami. They can only imagine how much more dangerous he'll be going one-on-one with a cornerback.
``I remember going back a couple of years, we did kind of have a vote,'' Colts special teams demon Darrell Reid said. ``Our special teams coach said 'We're going to kick away from him and everything,' and the players said, 'No, let's kick to him.' We found out very quickly that may not be such a good idea. He's tough to bring down.''
The festivities might not be completely gone, though.
While the buildup and hype is decidedly more low-key from Super Bowl week, the Colts are planning a grand reopening of their $720 million stadium, with one constant reminder left for the Bears: the giant championship banner hanging from the rafters of the retractable roof.
Indy played two forgettable preseason games there in late August and hopes to give the stadium a more appropriate christening Sunday.
``We certainly want to start it out on the right foot,'' Manning said. ``A stadium is great, but it gets greater when you're winning football games and the players are playing at a high level.''
Traditionally, the Colts have come out of the gate fast.
They've won 21 consecutive games in September and October, the league's longest pre-November streak since the Green Bay Packers won 23 straight from 1928-32. Indy is 7-0 against NFC teams during the run.
Yet Chicago sees it as an opportunity to play spoiler for a night and rekindle the chemistry that led to their Super Bowl run.
``What a great challenge for us, great atmosphere,'' Hillenmeyer said. ``I think everybody is really excited about it.''
The Bears expect to get some help from injury-prone Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown and defensive tackle Tommie Harris, two of their most important defenders who are back in the lineup. Neither played in the Super Bowl, and Brown missed all but the first game last year after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Coach Lovie Smith hasn't said how much Harris will play after being limited in practice this week, but he expects all of his key players to be in the lineup Sunday when the Bears match wits again with one of Smith's closest friends, Tony Dungy.
All the Bears really want, though, is a chance to make amends.
``We've certainly got to play one of our best games, and we've got to do it right out of the chute,'' Orton said. ``Going up against Indy is like going up against our defense, so we've had a lot of practice against it.''