How will Freeney’s injury affect the Super Bowl?

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Colts’ defensive end Dwight Freeney has a torn ligament in his injured right ankle, which means he could wind up missing Super Bowl XLIV.

This is the biggest game of the year and the Colts could be without their top pass rusher. This is devastating news for Indy to say the least and even if he does tough it out and play, he probably won’t be at 100%.

Freeney led the Colts with 13.5 sacks and along with Robert Mathis, gave the team a fierce pass rush – one that is supposed to keep Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees on edge. The best way to disrupt an opposing team’s offensive game plan is to get in the quarterback’s face and make him throw the ball sooner than he intends. That same notion can be applied to Brees and the Saints, who looked like a completely different offense in a Week 14 loss to the Cowboys, thanks to DeMarcus Ware and Dallas’ explosive pass rush.

If Freeney is limited on Sunday or misses the game entirely, then Brees should be more comfortable in the pocket, which is a scary thought for the Colts. In Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson and Jeremy Shockey, the Saints have a plethora of weapons for Brees to use to attack Indy’s secondary. And if he has all day to throw, then Brees should be able to strike for big plays and keep the Colts on their heels the entire game.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if Freeney can’t play, then the Saints won’t have to keep extra blockers in to keep protect Brees. With Freeney and Mathis both on the field, teams usually have to keep an extra blocker in (usually a running back) to help keep their quarterback upright. But with just Mathis to worry about, the Saints can roll their backs into the flats or over the middle, and we all know what Reggie Bush can do in open space. Obviously the Saints are at an advantage when Bush is on the field, compared to a blocking back like Pierre Thomas or Mike Bell.

Granted, it’s a ridiculous notion to suggest that one player (outside of the quarterback) can change the course of an entire game, but it would be a mistake to dismiss how vital Freeney is to the Colts’ defense. He’s a game-changer who relies on his speed to disrupt the flow of an opponent’s offense and if he can’t play, Indy will be limited in what it can do in its game plan come Sunday. Obviously this injury has no affect on Peyton Manning and the Colts’ offense, but given how explosive the Saints are, Freeney is the one player Indy can’t afford to lose.

The best-case scenario for the Colts would be if Freeney doesn’t practice all week and his ankle feels better by Sunday. But if he does have a tear, then it’s going to take longer than six days for the injury to heel. He has already admitted that the injury hasn’t improved over the last week and he has yet to practice.

With that in mind, I’m sure the Colts are already preparing for the inevitable: That they might be without their best defensive player for Super Bowl Sunday.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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