Freeney was Fine, but Colts' Pass Rush Wilts Anyway

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↵MIAMI -- When Dwight Freeney planted Drew Brees in the turf during the second quarter of Super Bowl 44, it felt like a signature moment in a game that had been preceded all week by talk about the star defensive end's ankle. ↵

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↵The Colts' pass rush was clicking. The play prior to Freeney's sack, defensive Robert Mathis narrowly missed a sack from the opposite side. The Saints were held to a field goal, and it appeared the one unknown about the Colts was coming together. ↵

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↵As it turned out, Freeney's sack was the last time Brees was under duress. It was the only takedown for the game. The momentum stemming from the one-two punch of Mathis and Freeney never materialized, but why? ↵

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↵Any conversation centering on the Colts' pass rush has to start with Freeney and his ankle. Just how healthy was he after he spent all of Super Bowl week limping around Miami? ↵

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↵"Obviously, there was a little pain, but I was good enough two days ago that I knew I could go out there and contribute," Freeney said. "Halftime was really tough on (the ankle) with it stiffening up, but for the most part it was good enough." ↵

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↵Freeney, who said he didn't have any sort of pain shot before or during the game, had his ankle rewrapped at the half, only to need the tape job redone during the Saints' first second-half drive because it was too tight. That drive followed the Saints' surprise onside kick, which led to a go-ahead score. ↵

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↵Some might point to Freeney's ankle as the only reason the Colts' pass rush didn't meet expectations, but going that route would be an oversimplification. ↵

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↵For the Saints, everyone had to help in protection to stop what New Orleans right tackle Jon Stinchcomb called two of the NFL's best pass rushers. ↵

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↵"It's one of those battles you want to win, and you probably understand you aren't going to win them all, but you just keep fighting, scratching and clawing," Stinchcomb said. "We came in with a good plan with different formations and chips that put us in positions to be successful." ↵

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↵Said Saints All-Pro guard Jahri Evans: "The tackles today, Stinchcomb and Jermon Bushrod, did an awesome job out there with those two guys. And the backs and the tight ends did an awesome job as well." ↵

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↵The other key component was Brees' ability to get the ball out quickly -- before Freeney had time to pull off his signature spin move. ↵

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↵"In the first half, (Brees) was holding on to the ball and giving us an opportunity to get there a little bit," Freeney said. "We worked on different moves. In the second half, that ball was going one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three. It was gone. They did a great job of game planning coming out in the second half." ↵

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↵The Saints' passing game not only gave them the firepower to hang with Peyton Manning, but using a short and precise plan allowed the team to control the ball late in the game, leaving Indy with a narrow margin for error. ↵

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↵"We had to get off the field. We couldn't get off the field. They kept us on the field, so that is what happens when you can't get to them," Mathis said. "To get all the way here and then fall short, that is very frustrating, but we can't hang our heads. We have got to keep our heads up." ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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