Freeney shows his toughness in Super Bowl

One player that will be overlooked in the Colts’ crushing 31-17 loss to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV is Dwight Freeney, who played the entire game despite having a tear in his right ankle.

Freeney missed two weeks of practice in hopes that his ankle would be completely healed by kickoff and while he wasn’t 100%, he gutted the pain out and turned in a banner first half. In fact, he made one of the best plays of the half when he sacked Drew Brees and forced the Saints to settle for a field goal attempt when they were driving deep into Indianapolis territory in the second quarter.

But following the game, Freeney admitted that the long layoff for halftime hampered his ability to play in the second half. He said his ankle stiffened up and despite his best efforts to loosen up on the sidelines, he just wasn’t the same player that he was in the first half.

Regardless, his teammates respected his effort.

From ESPN.com:

“He worked is tail off, three, four times a day,” Colts safety Melvin Bullitt said. “I knew he was going to play. There was no doubt in my mind he wouldn’t. That’s just the type of person Dwight is. It’s hard we couldn’t get the win for him with him coming back so soon off an injury like that. It’s very disappointing. He came up with a big play at a crucial time for us.”

We could play the “what if” game until we’re blue in the face. But had Freeney been healthy and played the entire game at 100%, there’s a possibility that Brees wouldn’t have completed 32-of-39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

Of course, none of that matters to Freeney or the Colts but considering many people (myself included) thought he wouldn’t be effective, what he did in the first half was impressive.


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Freeney misses practice, listed as questionable

Injured Colts’ defensive end Dwight Freeney was hoping to test his injured ankle on Friday during practice, but it didn’t happen as he was unable to hit the field. He didn’t practice once during the last two weeks and is listed as questionable on the Colts’ injury report for Super Bowl XLIV.

On Tuesday, Freeney told the media that the pain in his ankle was subsiding and that it felt better each day. Although he hasn’t practiced, it doesn’t mean that he won’t suit up on Super Bowl Sunday and he still has two more nights to treat the ankle so you never know how he’ll feel in two days.

That said, I highly doubt that he’ll play in Indy’s base defense and will likely be limited throughout the game. The best case for him and the Colts is if he’s able to play in obvious passing situations and provide a decent rush on Drew Brees but even then, it’s doubtful that Freeney will be that effective given that he’s a speed rusher and his ankle won’t be 100%.

As I’ve written all week, if Freeney is limited the Saints have a huge advantage because they can concentrate on slowing down Robert Mathis and won’t have to worry about keeping an extra blocker in. They can use their full complement of offensive weapons, which is dangerous considering how explosive their offense can be. Brees might have a field day on Sunday if the Colts can’t figure out a way to drum up some pressure without Freeney.


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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.


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