Behind 247 yards passing from Manning, the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17 on a waterlogged Sunday evening in Miami. The star quarterback finally won the championship after nine record-setting seasons that were filled with close calls and frustration.
"In years past when our team's come up short, it's been disappointing," Manning said. "Somehow, we found a way to have learned from some of those losses, and we've been a better team because of it."
Manning overcame a shaky start, throwing an interception during the Colts' first possession. Manning told CBS News' The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm that the team never panicked and simply focused on finding a rhythm.
Manning was the Most Valuable Player on a surreal night for the NFL's showcase game, played indoors or in perfect weather for almost all of the previous 40 years, but not this time.
In an ol'-fashioned South Florida gullywasher, the football squirted loose and bounced all over the sopping field. It resulted in eight turnovers, five by Chicago, including two late interceptions thrown by Rex Grossman that sealed the game for Indy.
"Both teams had to play in the weather," said Chicago kick returner Devin Hester, refusing to blame the loss on the rain. "They had the same footing we had."
Time of possession was huge for Indianapolis, who controlled the ball just shy of 20 minutes in the first half. "We had them running and you
could see them breathing heavy. You don't want to give them a chance to breathe," Manning told Storm.
Of course, the Super Bowl is about more than just the game.
At halftime, Prince took to the stage and sang through the deluge — the violet stage lights shining into the storm to make the perfect setting for his hit finale, "Purple Rain."
Then, the players took center stage again. When the crazy evening was over, the Colts had brought the first NFL title back to Indianapolis since their late owner, Robert Irsay, relocated them there from Baltimore in 1984. Manning finally broke through. And the game and entire week served as proof that nice guys don't always finish last.
The sight of Manning, the solid citizen, and Dungy, his soft-spoken coach, soaking up the rain — along with the confetti and the hugs — as they held the Vince Lombardi trophy were moments to remember.
It came at the end of this historic meeting between Dungy and Lovie Smith of the Bears, the first black head coaches to lead teams to the Super Bowl.
These men also made it notable by the way they conducted themselves — two quiet, churchgoing, kindhearted leaders who proved they could succeed without shouting, intimidating, bullying or humiliating players.
"One thing I liked about the whole process is that there were no negatives all week," Dungy said. "It was very professional, very gentlemanly. There were no incidents. To me, that's what it's all about — that you can win professionally, you can win with class."
Dungy shared a long embrace with Smith at midfield after the game and a few whispered words as they closed out their week together, but apart.
They insisted their friendship would withstand the strains of the Super Bowl spotlight.
"I just told him I was proud of this moment," Dungy said.
Manning will have plenty of good memories from this one, as well, a game in which he picked and poked through the rain and the Bears to win the title that eluded he and his famous father, Archie, for all those years.