Peyton Manning simply cannot beat the Patriots in the playoffs. The New England defense will hold both Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes in check, and both running backs will be non-factors. Tom Brady finds a way to win, and New England will once again be in the Super Bowl. The Colts are too soft a team to make it in 2007.
They’re so soft, the Colts are one win away from being Super Bowl champions. What a soft team indeed.
When Indianapolis defeated New England in the AFC Championship Game, they did more than earn a trip to Miami and Super Bowl XLI. They finally silenced every doubter who did not give them the credit they deserved. Sure, the Colts were always a good regular season team. However, this team was deemed too “soft” by many to make a serious run in the playoffs.
My, what a difference a month makes. These “soft” Colts are going to be heavy favorites for two weeks heading into Super Bowl Sunday. More than likely, many football fans will jump onto the “I never doubted Peyton Manning for a second” bandwagon. However, the fact that this team has made it this far should be a surprise to nobody.
In the first three games of the playoffs, the Colts were carried by an impenetrable defensive squad. Against Kansas City, they held one of the best running backs in the NFL, Larry Johnson, to a mediocre game. In their second playoff game against Baltimore, they held the Ravens to six points while playing on the road in a hostile environment. Against New England, the Indy defense did give up 34 points. However, on the last two New England drives, Indianapolis made two key defensive plays, allowing the Colts to win.
The Indianapolis offense is currently running on all cylinders. Running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes have done a great job at splitting carries. In three games the two backs have run for 410 yards and two touchdowns. The wide receiving core is getting a surprising uplift from Dallas Clark, who leads the team in the postseason with 17 receptions for 281 yards.
Then there’s the quarterback for the Colts. That guy’s pretty good.
Can anybody still believe that Peyton Manning is too “soft” a quarterback to win the big one? Heading into the AFC Championship Game, Manning’s stats were less than impressive. Boy did he make up for it in the title game though. Manning went 27 of 47 for 349 yards and one touchdown. Let’s also not forget that he brought the Colts back from the largest deficit in conference championship history. He also took his team down the field against his arch nemesis for a game-winning drive.
Unlike most, I picked the Colts to get this far. I’m sticking with this soft team to beat the Bears, as well. Don’t misunderstand me, however. I think the Bears are going to give the Colts a much better game than many are giving Chicago credit for. However, here are a few reasons why I believe the Colts will hoist the Lombardy Trophy over their heads on February 4th.
I fully expect the Indy defensive line to win the battle up front, disrupting Chicago’s passing game and keeping the Bears rushing game in check. Look for DE Dwight Freeney, possibly the fastest lineman in football, to get well acquainted with Chicago QB Rex Grossman by the end of the game. Expect Erie’s native son Bob Sanders to have another stellar game. I would also look for Cato June to have a big game, possibly creating a turnover.
Nobody can deny the Bears defense is a formidable foe to say the least. I expect the Colts to attempt to wear the Bears down throughout the game, very similar to how the New England offense operates. Addai and Rhodes will get their carries in order to establish a running game and set up the play action pass for Manning. Manning will use receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne on slants and little out patterns in order to move down the field and also set up the long ball. And of course, don’t forget about Dallas Clark, even though Indy’s opponents have thus far in the playoffs.
The most important factor for the Indy offense will be to not make mistakes. Chances are that Chicago will cause at least one turnover in the game. Much like in the AFC Title Game, it is important that Manning and the offense not get rattled when this happens. It is also important that the offense gets on the board early. Chicago’s offense is not bred for comebacks (the game against Arizona doesn’t count…it was the Cardinals, after all), so if the Colts can jump on the Bears early, the game should be theirs for the taking.
Finally, after everything this team has endured in the past, the Colts are ready for it to be their turn. The comeback against the Patriots was proof that they are simply refusing to lose. Not only is Indy better on paper than the Bears. They may actually be playing with more heart than their opponents. Luckily for the Colts, the two-week layoff should alleviate any hangover caused by the dramatic victory of the Pats.
This “soft” team has made it farther than many so-called experts thought they could. In twenty years when the Colts are looked back upon and scrutinized, many adjectives will be used to describe this team. I highly doubt “soft” will be one of those words.