For a quick-strike offense, the Indianapolis Colts are beginning Super Bowl XLIV looking a lot like the road-graders they haven't been all season. The team with the weakest regular-season rushing attack in the NFL took the whoopin' stick to the Saints' troublesome run defense on their drive that began on the Colts' 4-yard line with 5:12 left in the first quarter. Peyton Manning(notes) saw vulnerability in the Saints' three-man fronts, especially when they were split wide, with linebackers moving in and out.
After two quick passes -- one complete and one not -- the Colts ran the ball on five of the next eight plays. Joseph Addai's(notes) 26-yard run up the middle with 2:06 left in the quarter didn't just set Indy up at the Saints' 23; it also put cornerback Jabari Greer(notes), New Orleans' best pass defender, on the bench with a leg injury. Manning, as he so often does, recognized the mismatch and hit Pierre Garcon(notes) for a 19-yard touchdown three plays later.
The drive tied the record for the longest in the Super Bowl (the Chicago Bears pulled off a 96-yarder against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX) and surprised some people -- the Colts are generally known as the team more attuned to quick scores than overwhelming drive efficiency. And it's a very bad sign for the Saints that the Colts already have their number on those three-man fronts -- defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had best start mixing things up. Using an extra defensive lineman in four-man fronts would allow New Orleans' linebackers to roam around without worrying so much about inside contain, and dealing more with short passes underneath. Early on, it's the ground game that has the Saints on their heels.