Tuesday February 2nd, 2010

Ryan Diem and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts barely batted an eye Monday when their plane touched down in Miami between rainstorms. Three years ago this week, in the same city and stadium where they'll face the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, the Colts won their first championship of the Peyton Manning era in a game as noteworthy for the weather as for the players' performances.

Never before had it rained throughout a Super Bowl; but on that infamous evening the showers began just after midnight, stopped in the afternoon, returned before kickoff, and didn't stop until well after the Colts had completed their 29-17 defeat of the Bears. Perhaps that's why there was no sense of concern about the rain when the Colts arrived in South Florida.

"We've had bad weather and rain here before and it worked out," Diem said.

The weather was so poor Monday the Saints had to move their practice indoors; the league also shifted Tuesday's media day to an indoor concourse at Sun Life Stadium. Rain isn't in the extended forecast -- Sunday night is expected to be partly cloudy with a low near 52 degrees -- but if three years ago taught us anything, it's that Mother Nature should never be taken for granted.

With rain falling as the Colts and Bears took the field that evening, incredulous smirks were as common as giddy smiles on the faces of fans. Did the weather gods not get the memo that it never rains on Super Bowl Sunday? Things became so miserable, with wind gusts reaching 21 mph, that some spectators watched the game on television sets in the covered concourses. Concessionaires reportedly sold out of $5 ponchos by halftime, and at least one fan tried to purchase an unused garbage bag from a stadium worker.

The only thing uglier than the weather was the turnover total. The teams combined for eight, including five on lost fumbles, three by the Bears.

"We're prepared for anything," Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said recently. "Obviously, you play in Miami for that great weather; but if it's rain, we've done that before and we'll know how to handle ourselves. At this level, guys are going to throw the football. But rain does make it just a little bit sloppier of a game. There were turnovers in the Chicago game that probably wouldn't have been there if the weather were sunny, just because the ball was slick. As a defender we know that, so you want to attack the ball a little bit more."

Neither team played in rain this season, but the Colts did play in snow in their finale at Buffalo. Little can be gleaned from that game because Indy sat many of its regulars. But if the past is truly prologue, you can expect Manning to run his aerial offense regardless of the conditions. Against the Bears three years ago, he attempted 38 passes (completing 25) for 247 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. He was sacked once.

"We'll get prepared for it just in case we have to deal with some of the same issues we had to deal with last time," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. "It looks like it may rain during the course of the week, so maybe we'll have an opportunity to practice in it. But our game plan won't change."

Like the Colts, the Saints rely primarily on their passing game. Drew Brees threw a league-high 34 touchdown passes, spread among 10 receivers, but he also has a solid running game with Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, Reggie Bush and Lynell Hamilton. Asked about the weather, Brees said: "It is what it is. Weather the storm -- we know how to do that."

Hopefully the teams won't have to.

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