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Super Bowl: Offensive Game Could Turn Defensive

miller-article1For this Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup, it is quite impossible to ignore the offenses of the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints.  Both teams are ranked in the top ten for points, passing yards and total yards per game.

In those offensive categories, the Colts are 7th, 9th and 2nd, respectively.  The Saints hold two 1sts and a 4th.  Not to mention, the Who Dats, the Saints for those who don’t hail from the Bayou, are 6th in the NFL in rushing yards per game.

So, of course, the offenses are going to be discussed like the release of the movie Star Trek in a comic book shop.  You cannot mention the high-flying offenses of these two teams enough.

However, for either team to win in Miami, they need to stop the elite quarterbacks.  In 12 NFL seasons, Colts general Peyton Manning has defined the quarterback position with ten years of 4,000 or more passing yards.  On the flip side, Saints everyman Drew Brees, who got his start playing for the San Diego Chargers before Philip Rivers took the helm, has wowed spectators with his down-field precision and his four consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons.

See, I cannot even avoid discussing these television-friendly offenses.  It is practically intoxicating.

If the Colts plan on shutting down Brees, then the storyline of the week – the health status of Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney – will play the largest role for Indianapolis.

On Wednesday, Freeney spoke to the media about his frustration with his ankle injury.  He said, “No one knows when this type of thing is going to happen, you just have to think positively after the fact and just keep on getting better.”

Even though Freeney has not played a full 16-game season, he has recorded ten or more sacks in six out of his eight years in the NFL.  Freeney’s 84.0 sacks place him right alongside the Carolina Panthers sack master Julius Peppers.

Besides oft-injured Colts safety Bob Sanders – who will not play Sunday because of his being placed on injured reserve after only two starts this season, Freeney is the most important player for the Colts’ defense.

Colts defensive coordinator Larry Coyer responded to the media Tuesday about the chances of Freeney playing.  He stated, “We try to fit in the next guy the best we can, and maybe adjust a position or two, but we really have to do what we do and we have to do it with the guys available to us.”  But, we all know Coyer wanted to shout from the rooftops about why he needs the ferocious Freeney healthy and on the field Sunday.

On the other side of the ball, if the Saints plan on keeping Manning at bay, then the Who Dats need free safety Darren Sharper, who recently was voted to the NFL’s 2000s all-decade team, to shut down receivers by deflecting passes and intercepting balls (with lots of return yardage).

Throughout the Aughts, Sharper intercepted 58 passes and scored nine defensive touchdowns.  During Wednesday’s media day, Sharper spoke of his mentality of improving the Saints’ turnover differential.  The five-time Pro Bowler declared, “I think a play-making mentality, being able to attack the ball and finishing plays.  A lot of things, and I always believe this, what separates an average defensive back from a good defensive back, is one that can finish the play and when they get the opportunity, make that play.”

While explaining what it is like to play against Peyton Manning, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said it plainly, “You can try to play that chess game and go back and forth with Peyton.  I don’t know how long you want to do that.  If it’s working, stay with it.  If it’s not working, get out of it.”  Although, for any defensive player, allowing touchdowns is not something they desire. 

Whichever team claims victory on February 7, 2010, will most likely have the dominant defense.

Even in this super-glorified, high-scoring offensive era, defenses – especially megastar defenders – can win ball games for their clubs.

The Colts’ Dwight Freeney and Saint Darren Sharper could be two players on Sunday who will make an impact and force the opposing quarterbacks to make poor decisions. 

NFL offenses are what drive the incredible TV ratings, but defenders can change the direction of a game – especially when it comes to Super Bowl XLIV.

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Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio.  Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. 

Richard contributes to Inside the Game with Robin Valetutto every Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. 

Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010. 

Richard has been down in Miami all week covering Super Bowl XLIV.  Follow his blog on The Jacksonville Observer.

You can e-mail Richard at Richard.Miller@jaxobserver.com

2 Responses »

  1. I believe that if the "Strip Kings" - the Saints - do to the Colts what they did to the Vikings, it is all over. We all know the Vikings outplayed the Saints at every turn but just could not hold onto the ball.

    I'm afraid that this "strip it" performance will usher in a new style of game that will require a rule change by the NFL Commissioner. Ball stripping was exciting to watch in one game but to allow it to continue at that pace will change the NFL game into rugby.

    In the end, General Peyton Manning should have the final say on Sunday. If he can avoid a crushing physical blow the Colts will go home with the trophy and the rings. I think it will come down to the last 3 minutes and one pass by Manning. And we'll hear the words, "TOUCHDOWN INDIANAPOLIS COLTS!"

    Then, when NFL football returns in August, we can only imagine what it will be like when TIM "AMAZING" TEBOW takes the stage as the Vikings starting quarterback or the Giants starting quarterback.

  2. Go Saints. It's an incredible story, rise to the top and 1st time ever. Here's hoping.