The axiom that you get to the Super Bowl with defense took a hit
two years ago when the Rams won it all with a better than average
D and an attack that dazzled the world. But then the
offense-challenged Ravens restored order last season. So where
are we now?
"We're in the free-agency era," Colts president Bill Polian says.
"Nowadays it's almost impossible to be great on both sides of the
ball. Is anybody complete? Name me a complete team."
Well, it's not Indianapolis, not yet anyway, but the Colts are
working on it. The offense? It's a thing of beauty, which was
what Polian set out to create when he took over three years ago.
His first draft choice was quarterback Peyton Manning, who has
been to two Pro Bowls. His next first-rounder, running back
Edgerrin James, is another Pro Bowler who has led the league in
rushing in each of his two seasons. Already in place were gifted
wideout Marvin Harrison and tight end Ken Dilger. The Colts have
kept their fine line intact, and they recently locked up their
talented motion tight end, Marcus Pollard, to a long-term deal.
Oh, this is a Pro Bowl-caliber attack, just as it was last year
and the year before. So how come Indy never gets anywhere in the
--Jan. 16, 2000: In a divisional playoff game the Titans come from
behind on a 68-yard touchdown run by Eddie George and win 19-16.
A tiring defense allows 197 yards on the ground.
--Dec. 30, 2000: The Dolphins' Lamar Smith runs for 209 yards as
Miami piles up 258 yards on the ground en route to a 23-17
overtime victory in the wild-card round. During their
game-winning 61-yard drive, the Dolphins had 35 yards on the
ground, the last 17 coming on Smith's touchdown dash.
Also, at home during the regular season last year Indianapolis
blew a 17-point halftime lead to the Raiders, who scored 31
unanswered points, and the Colts couldn't hold a late lead
against Miami, which was going with reserves at quarterback and
"If we could only have finished those games...," Polian says
The solution, of course, was to draft big guys, run-stoppers, in
April, but eight defensive linemen had fallen before Indy's turn
came up at No. 22, so rather than "picking a slug," as Polian
says, the Colts traded down to the 30th selection and grabbed
wideout Reggie Wayne, a 6-foot, 197-pound burner out of Miami
who, if nothing else, is drawing raves from the franchise
quarterback. "Only four years of major-college football, and he
knows exactly what you're talking about," Manning says. "I'll
tell him, 'Fade route but be alive for the underneath,' and I
don't have to explain anything else."
O.K., Indianapolis will score a lot of points, but, again, how
will it stop opponents? "Youth, enthusiasm, new faces,
athleticism," says Chad Bratzke, the right end and the Colts'
sack leader last season, with 7 1/2. "We've got some guys who were
in the learning phase last season. O.K., it's a year later. It's
time to produce.
"The talent is here. Josh Williams is a young tackle with
incredible explosion off the line. He's in his second year. So's
our middle linebacker, Rob Morris, who's athletic and smart. He
can really run. Marcus Washington, our strongside backer, is
another guy in his second year, a great athlete, but he's
learning a new position. Mike Peterson's a terrific weakside
linebacker, but he's only in his third year. Our free safety,
Idrees Bashir, is a rookie. He flies all over the field, making
plays. We've got the pieces to the puzzle. We just have to put
Even fourth-year coach Jim Mora, whose history as an assistant
was on the defensive side, isn't sure what to make of things. "I
wish I could tell you how good this unit could be," he says,
"but, frankly, I don't know. I probably won't know till halfway
through the season. Last year teams wore us down. They pounded
us. In the playoff game Miami just overpowered our defensive
front. They kept mashing us.
"We finished 25th against the run. We haven't been very good at
stopping it since I've been here. We've got to be stronger; we've
got to play with more power. We picked up Christian Peter from
the Giants. He'll help, and so will the fact that we'll be
rotating more people up front."
A key man is Morris, the middle linebacker who was drafted in
the first round last year for his run-stopping ability but was
hurt most of the season and appeared in only seven games. "I
didn't have an Edgerrin James kind of rookie year," Morris says.
"I didn't have a fairy-tale start. Hopefully, there will be some
kind of fairy tale in the middle and the end."
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Manning, the first pick in the '98 draft, is a polished passer whose numbers have gone up each year.
COLOR PHOTO: TODD ROSENBERG SATURDAY
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Colts
"I think the Colts are the best team in the division, but what
they have to do, and this may sound crazy, is keep from scoring
too fast. They've got to keep their defense off the field as much
as they can. They don't want to make it a track meet, because if
they do, they'll find some teams that can keep up with them, and
then they'll be in trouble late in the game.... I like the mix
they have on offense--superstars plus hardworking, blue-collar
guys, such as their center, Jeff Saturday. All he does is play
well. You win with people like that.... They tried to get their
defense younger and faster this year. It's a shame they lost
their free safety, Jason Belser [a free agent they chose not to
re-sign], because he gave them the toughness they need. O.K., he
was starting to decline, but he was still one of the most
underrated players in the league.... I'm very high on their
weakside linebacker, Mike Peterson, and I think Chad Bratzke at
right end is the best defensive player they have. When they
signed him from the Giants and gave him all that money [in 1999],
everybody said, 'He had Michael Strahan on the other side to take
on the double team; let's see what he does on his own.' Well, on
his own, he's been pretty damn good. The Giants missed him more
than he missed the Giants. I'm a sucker for guys like Bratzke who
are not only good but make everyone around them better. The
Colts need more people like that. The young guys? Who knows?"
Sept. 9 at N.Y. Jets
30 at New England
Oct. 7 Open date
21 NEW ENGLAND
28 at Kansas City
Nov. 4 at Buffalo
18 at New Orleans
25 SAN FRANCISCO
Dec. 2 at Baltimore
10 at Miami (Mon.)
23 N.Y. JETS
30 at St. Louis
2001 SCHEDULE STRENGTH
NFL rank: 3
Opponents' 2000 winning percentage: .539
Games against playoff teams: 7
with 2000 statistics
COACH: Jim Mora; fourth season with Indianapolis (117-90 in NFL)
2000 Record: 10-6 (second in AFC East)
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total): offense 16/2/3; defense 25/18/21
OFFENSIVE BACKS PVR*
QB Peyton Manning 5 571 att. 357 comp. 62.5% 4,413 yds.
33 TDs 15 int. 94.7 rtg.
RB Edgerrin James 2 387 att. 1,709 yds. 4.4 avg. 63 rec.
594 yds. 9.4 avg. 18 TDs
RB Lennox Gordon 375 4 att. 13 yds. 3.3 avg.
no receptions in 2000 0 TDs
WR Jerome Pathon 222 1 att. 3 yds. 3.0 avg. 50 rec.
646 yds. 12.9 avg. 3 TDs
RECEIVERS, SPECIALISTS, OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
WR Marvin Harrison 10 102 rec. 1,413 yds. 14 TDs
WR Reggie Wayne (R)[N]110 43 rec. 755 yds. 10 TDs
TE Ken Dilger 148 47 rec. 538 yds. 3 TDs
TE Marcus Pollard 212 30 rec. 439 yds. 3 TDs
K Mike Vanderjagt 130 46/46 XPs 25/27 FGs 121 pts.
PR Terrence Wilkins 97 29 ret. 8.3 avg. 0 TDs
KR Terrence Wilkins 97 15 ret. 18.6 avg. 0 TDs
LT Tarik Glenn 6'5" 332 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Steve McKinney 6'4" 295 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Jeff Saturday 6'2" 293 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Larry Moore 6'2" 296 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT Adam Meadows 6'5" 295 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LE Brad Scioli 13 tackles 2 sacks
LT Ellis Johnson 41 tackles 5 sacks
RT Christian Peter[N] 37 tackles 1 sack
RE Chad Bratzke 64 tackles 7 1/2 sacks
OLB Marcus Washington 21 tackles 2 sacks
MLB Rob Morris 13 tackles 0 sacks
OLB Mike Peterson 159 tackles 2 int.
CB Jeff Burris 77 tackles 4 int.
SS Chad Cota 87 tackles 2 int.
FS Idrees Bashir(R) 65 tackles 2 int.
CB David Macklin 30 tackles 2 int.
P Hunter Smith 65 punts 44.7 avg.
[N]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 119)
"What they have to do, and this may sound crazy, is keep from
scoring too fast."