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Gamble pays off for Colts

Addai and Rhodes, who stepped into the breach after the team had to let James go because of salary cap issues, provide one-two punch.

February 05, 2007|John Altavilla | Hartford Courant

MIAMI — The difficult financial decisions facing teams in the NFL each season forced the Colts to do something they once thought unimaginable.

They let Edgerrin James, who gained more than 1,000 yards five times in his seven seasons in Indianapolis, sign with the Arizona Cardinals during the off-season after he had gained 1,506 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in 2005. There simply wasn't enough money to satisfy everyone under the salary cap.

In doing so, the Colts hoped rookie Joseph Addai from Louisiana State and six-year veteran Dominic Rhodes could combine to replace James' production.

"Dominic and Joseph have been great for us all season," said quarterback Peyton Manning, the most valuable player of the Colts' 29-17 victory over the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

On Sunday, in the most important game the franchise has played in almost four decades, Addai and Rhodes repaid the faith of their organization by providing the one-two punch that helped knock out the Bears.

"It's awesome to get a Super Bowl ring," said Rhodes, who led all rushers with 113 yards in 21 carries and scored a one-yard touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Colts their first lead, 16-14. "This is great for my teammates, evidence of how hard we worked all season. It's a credit to everyone."

Addai, who gained 1,081 yards this season, had 77 yards rushing and made 10 catches for 66 yards.

"The game takes on its own personality when you start seeing what the opponent is trying to do," Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore said of the short passing game. "And the running game was great. You need something like that against a great defensive team. You try to establish the run. You don't want to be one-dimensional."

Addai's importance to the team grew as the season progressed. And with Manning's arm available to take the pressure off, it wasn't long before he began to excel.

"It took 16 games to find out if it was better for Joe to start and Dom to come off the bench," Manning said. "That nice one-two punch was outstanding for us throughout the entire postseason."

"All I can say is it feels good right now to come in and feel like you are a part of the team," Addai said. "It's good to produce, to help out. We made it to the Super Bowl, so right there and then it's a relief. But now that we've actually won it, I really feel good about it."

Many pundits expected the Bears' running game to play a more important role, and Thomas Jones, their 1,000-yard rusher, did gain 112 yards in 15 carries, including the game's longest run from scrimmage (52 yards).

Bears Coach Lovie Smith praised Addai and Rhodes but thought his defense could have done a better job.

"You have to give the Colts' running game a lot of credit," Smith said. "I felt their backs ran very hard. But I also think we usually tackle better than we did" Sunday.

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