MIAMI (Feb. 5, 2007) -- Let's all give a round of applause for Peyton Manning and the brilliant career that can now be defined by a world championship and a Super Bowl MVP award. The Colts couldn't have won without his brilliant leadership, and he would be the first to recognize that his running backs were an incredible piece to the puzzle that made it all possible.
The Bears were supposed to be the team with the great tandem of backs who were going to shelter Rex Grossman with a big day running the ball, but as it turned out, Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes were the men who had the super performance.
It was no surprise to me or the people inside the Colts organization who made the big decision last March not to pay Edgerrin James to stay with the Colts but rather to turn to Rhodes and draft a running back in April.
When the draft came around, the Colts found themselves a multi-talented player from LSU (Addai) who looked like a kid who could deliver more explosive runs and a great pair of hands. The plan was for Rhodes to handle most of the pass protection and short-yardage issues while Addai would be brought along to take care of the first- and second-down plays.
Keep in mind Rhodes was once the undrafted rookie who stepped in for an injured James and responded with a 1,000-yard season. He could start as long as it took for Addai to learn the ropes. Well, what transpired and culminated in hoisting the Super Bowl trophy in the first year of the two-headed monster at running back was a tandem that couldn't be beat by the Bears defense. Or, for that matter, the Chiefs, Ravens or Patriots during the playoff run.
As the 12-4 regular season came to an end, Rhodes and Addai were getting 30 touches per game for 143 yards per game. That is a heck of an effort from two men during a 16-game season that features Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
While the three perennial Pro Bowl selections were stealing the headlines, the "workhorse backs" were building the foundation for the offense. By the way, Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones averaged 30 touches for 130 yards during the regular season, but the average fan would believe the Bears runners were producing more yards than the Colts backs.
Along came the three playoff games leading up to the world championship, and the Addai-Rhodes workload increased to 39 touches for 170 yards per game. That's an increase of nine plays and 27 yards in some tough sledding against the Nos. 1, 6 and 16 defenses in the NFL. The Bears tandem was experiencing some success, but at 40 touches for 162 yards per game fell short once again to Addai and Rhodes.
On to the big game. What else has to be said about Rhodes and Addai on the greatest stage of all against the fifth-ranked defense in the NFL except awesome!
Manning struggled in the first series of the game trying to establish the offense. There was only one run and five passes in a drive that ended with an interception. The hint that big things were to come was Addai's 14-yard run on second-and-10. From the second series on, Manning leaned heavily on his two runners, and they responded. Early in the MVP voting, both backs were collecting a fair share of votes because as the night came to an end, they produced 41 touches for 264 yards. They delivered when the Colts needed it most.
As pass protectors, they were excellent. Manning read a pass defense and they killed the Bears with the draw. Manning wanted to push the Bears linebackers into deep drops and hit the checkdown route to the backs. Addai led all players with 10 receptions.
What a night for an offense that is now truly balanced. What a night for Bill Polian, who took a chance by not resigning James, and what a night for two guys who should be in Colts uniforms for a long time.