The Super Bowl will culminate the 2009 season. It is the biggest game of the year, but slightly different from previous seasons. In approximately three days, one hour, three minutes and 12 seconds at the time of this writing.
Normally as football fans we have to deal with two weeks of uneventful banter waiting to see if anyone will be slighted, if anyone will provide their opponents with any bulletin board material for extra added motivation, speculation on the effects injuries to key players will have, endless analysis and almost every facet of the game thoroughly broken down.
This year the league office decided to call an audible, remove the Pro Bowl game from its normal location and position as a game played after the Super Bowl in Hawaii and slam it smack dab in the middle of the media frenzy leading up the Super Bowl XLIV.
I'm a football fan at the end of the day so I watched the game. I'm not of fan of the change, but seeing as I had it jammed down my throat by the league office and like a defense that can't stop the run, I had to deal with it. But I digress.
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees lead explosive offenses, arguably the two best offenses and the two best quarterbacks in the league. This fact alone has led several people to assume that this game will be a shootout, challenging the most points by both teams (75) Super Bowl record set by San Francisco and San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX. I disagree with that thought, but I can understand the argument because it is possible.
The game could easily come down to which offense has the ball last. However, there are several items telling me that the Colts running game will be a key factor in the outcome of Super Bowl XLIV. I know a lot of people probably had a good laugh reading that statement, but I urge you to hold your water and allow me to state my case of why I feel that way.
Both teams ended the regular season being gashed by the opponent's ground game, allowing over 400 yards rushing with the Saints losing their last three games and surrendering four TD's. The Colts have been notorious for not being able to stop the run over the years, but the team has changed that in the regular season and has really stepped up their effort in the postseason, ranking as the fourth best team in the playoffs, stopping the run allowing a very stingy 86 yards per game. This tells me that the Colts have solved their problems against the rushing game.
A great stat, but when you consider that this team has shut down two of the best rushing teams in the league to reach the Super Bowl when several people said that they couldn't get the job done proves to be an impressive feat. The old adage still rains true—a solid and consistent ground game will allow you to win the time of possession battle and help you slow down an explosive offense by keeping Drew Brees and company on the sidelines watching. The Colts have proven that they can win in a variety of ways. Indianapolis beat Miami when the Dolphins attempted to utilize the above mentioned tactic in the second week of the season. More impressively the Colts won despite losing the time of possession battle and efficiently outscoring their opponent possessing the ball under 15 minutes.
In case you didn't know, the Colts running game ranked dead last in the regular season. Consequently, the Saints defense allowed 122 yards rushing per game. The Colts scored 53 touchdowns in the regular season—of those only 16 were produced by the ground game.
That same offense in the most important game of the season at that point shut down the Jets ground game and ran for 101 yards.
Despite the Colts not relying on the running game that much this year, as the numbers above tell you, the Saints are vulnerable. I have faith that the Colts "M&M" duo of Tom Moore and Howard Mudd will have a game plan in place to attack this weakness. The fact that they've been the only offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Peyton Manning has ever had to deal with as a Colt and the duo has been getting the job done for a while.
Prediction: Colts 30-27