Offense Adjusts to Jets Defense, Comes Through in Second Half
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts offense weathered an early storm from the New York Jets' top-ranked defense Sunday. But the offense stuck to its plan, scoring three touchdowns and three field goals on the way to a Super Bowl XLIV berth.
The Jets had their way with quarterback Peyton Manning and the offense early on, holding the Colts scoreless in the first period and forcing them to settle for two short field goals early in the second quarter.
But a late touchdown to rookie wide receiver Austin Collie with 1:13 left in the first half, and from there the Colts offense took over, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal in the second half of the team's 30-17 victory over the Jets in the AFC Championship.
Following Collie's score, the Colts still trailed 17-13, but Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell declared it the turning point of Sunday's game.
"To get that score was really something that made a huge difference going into the half and really put our guys on the right course," he said.
With the defense holding the Jets scoreless in the second half, the Colts were able to get into a rhythm offensively.
Manning turned in another outstanding playoff performance, finishing 26-of-39 for 377 yards and three touchdowns. It marked his seventh career 300-yard post-season outing, setting an NFL record.
"He performs best in the most difficult situations," Caldwell said. "Facing as fine as a defense we faced all year and he takes his game to the next level. That's something we've grown accustomed to over the years."
Manning said the Colts struggled to pick up the Jets' blitz early on, resulting in two sacks, but said once the offense adjusted to their opponent's speed it was a different ballgame.
"Once we got something we liked we kind of ran with it," he said. "Guys did a great job…it was kind of the game we expected."
Maybe the biggest surprise from Sunday's championship game was how well the Colts handled the Jets' rushing attack.
New York possessed the top rushing offense in the NFL this season, and ran the ball just as well in their first two games of the post-season.
But against the Colts on Sunday, the Jets ran for just 86 yards, their second-lowest total of the season.
"I don't think anyone realizes just how fast we are on the defensive side of the ball until they get here," linebacker Gary Brackett said. "Guys really thought it was a personal challenge to get the run stopped, and I think we got that done."
Jets running back Thomas Jones carried the ball 16 times for 42 yards and rookie running back Shonn Greene, the NFL's top rusher this post-season, gained 41 yards on 10 carries.
"We held them far below what they are accustomed to and just did a great job of stopping the run," Caldwell said.
In all, the Jets averaged just 3.0 yards per carry against the Colts.
"We wanted to be the aggressors, to be the hunters, and I think you saw that from our defensive side," Brackett said.
STEPPING UP WHEN CALLED UPONMeanwhile, the Colts' own rushing attack played a huge part in their team's victory.
Ranked near the bottom of the league during the regular season, the Colts' ground game outdueled the Jets' Sunday. Indianapolis outrushed the Jets 101-86 and helped balance an offense that totaled 461 yards.
Running back Joseph Addai carried the ball 16 times for 80 yards and rookie running back Donald Brown rushed six times for 18, including a key 12-yard rush in the first quarter.
In all, the Colts averaged 4.2 yards per carry, with Addai gaining 5.0 yards per rush.
"Joe had a real good day," Caldwell said.
But Addai and Brown were not the only running backs instrumental to the Colts' victory Sunday.
Former running back Edgerrin James, the franchise's all-time leading rusher, served as an honorary captain against the Jets, going out to midfield before the game and helping the Colts win the coin toss. James then presented the Lamar Hunt AFC Championship trophy to Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay after the game.
"It was great to have him with us," Caldwell said. "He is one of those guys that epitomizes what our organization is all about, what our franchise is all about. He was beloved, still is, and is a real true professional that took care of his body and led our team in a very positive way. Not only was he great in the locker room, but also great on the field as well. To have him around was a lot of fun."