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Super Bowl history shows how important a role the sack plays

For all the attention being paid to Dwight Freeney's injured ankle, it's easy to forget that the Colts' success this season didn't hinge on rushing the passer (they ranked 16th in sacks), it came from protecting their own.

Indianapolis' offensive line allowed a league-low 12 sacks in 2009 -- two of which came against backup QB Curtis Painter. That's 10 sacks on Peyton Manning, who, with one of the quicker releases in the league, spent the majority of the regular season and playoffs upright.

Behind the numbers

   Every day this week, will break down a different statistical trend to monitor in 
  Super Bowl XLIV. 

» Monday:Brees vs. Manning
» Tuesday: Pressuring the QB

» Wednesday: Rushing breakdown

» Thursday: Positive turnover differential

» Friday: Average starting field position

» Saturday:Super Bowl experience

» Sunday: Breaking down the kickers

The Saints tied for the 13th best in the league with 35 sacks, a number that won't strike much fear in Manning or his teammates.

But it should concern the Saints. The team that records more sacks in the Super Bowl is 27-12 in the big game, meaning the Saints will have to get after Manning if they want to avoid a shootout.

With the Colts preparing to play without Freeney, they have reason to be concerned themselves. Indianapolis' 34 sacks in the regular season ranked 16th in the league, and its pass rush will surely take a blow if Freeney is unable to play.

The Colts' all-time sack leader, who is listed as questionable, recorded 13.5 sacks in 14 regular-season games this season. Freeney has eight sacks in 14 playoff games, but is still looking for his first sack of the 2009 postseason. Whether or not he will have his chance isn't likely to be determined until Sunday.

Freeney's potential absence would place more pressure on defensive ends Robert Mathis and Raheem Brock, who combined for 13 sacks in the regular season. They'll have to get after a Saints offensive line that allowed the fourth-fewest sacks in the league (20).

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