Manning, Colts' 'D' will do in the Saints

February 05, 2010|By Mike Preston

It's been a nice ride for New Orleans and the Saints, but it will end Sunday night in Miami in the Super Bowl.

As expected, there will be a lot of points scored because of great quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, but the Indianapolis Colts will win because they are a more balanced team with fewer weaknesses.

Manning is the best quarterback in the NFL, and Brees isn't far behind. But aside from Manning, the difference in the game will be defense. The Colts are underrated because of their high-profile offense, but they've got some playmakers on that side of the ball.

Coach Jim Caldwell has done a great job of telling his defensive players that they no longer need to be the ugly stepchild of the Colts' offense.

Indianapolis has the best tandem of pass rushers in the league in ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but the Colts are extremely strong in the middle.

In Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir, Indianapolis has two tackles who are athletic and can run, and Gary Brackett is one of the better middle linebackers in the league. Safeties Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea cover a lot of ground, and like most of the Colts, don't miss many tackles.

Outside linebacker Clint Session epitomizes the speed of the team. Defense will carry the Colts to victory. The Colts will win by 11, and possibly more.

Ins and outs
The Ravens were able to sign former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees as their linebackers coach because of housecleaning being done by New England head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick wants to run his own defense again, and who can blame him?

The problem, though, is that Belichick was criticized for doing too much last season, including acting as general manager. Apparently, he hasn't learned his lesson.

Pees replaced Vic Fangio. The Ravens also reportedly lost defensive backs coach Mark Carrier to the New York Jets, where he will become the defensive line coach and join head coach Rex Ryan, the Ravens' former defensive coordinator.

What's going on?

Several of the assistants weren't happy that Ravens coach John Harbaugh chose Greg Mattison as the defensive coordinator to replace Ryan. The one assistant the Ravens can't afford to lose is defensive line coach Clarence Brooks.

If that happens, look out.

Off-the-field issues
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was candid, bluntly honest at times, when answering certain questions Wednesday at the State of the Ravens affair. I liked how he supported NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has come down hard on players when they've run into trouble off the field.

The NFL is a microcosm of society. For the most part, the players are decent, but a few cast a shadow over the league. This is a league that needed a kick in the butt.

"I hope that Roger continues to be tough," Bisciotti said. "The union is going to have its say on that in [collective bargain agreement] talks, and it's going to be one of the peripheral issues other than the actual financial structure of things.

"I assume that it's going to be addressed," Bisciotti added. "But Roger is not backing down on this one. If he does not have the power to do the things that he has done, then I think we're all worse off because of it. I salute him for getting tougher, and I hope he continues to get tougher."

Zorn should help Flacco
The Ravens will be putting more pressure on quarterback Joe Flacco for next season, his third in the league. That's the way it should be, as Flacco was a first-round draft pick.

It might be a good thing that Jim Zorn has replaced Hue Jackson as quarterbacks coach. Jackson and Flacco had a great relationship, and Jackson could comfort Flacco when times got tough.

But Jackson never played the game, whereas Zorn, the former Washington Redskins head coach, played 11 seasons in the NFL, nine with the Seattle Seahawks. Zorn should be able to give Flacco more of a technical view in running an offense.

Wait and see on wide-out
The Ravens have been criticized for not being able to draft a top wide receiver, failing with Mark Clayton and Travis Taylor, two former first-round picks.

But before fans become too huffy and puffy, let's remember there is a different coaching staff in town. Until this group arrived, the Ravens had failed in finding a quarterback; this staff drafted Flacco.

In other words, wait and see.

"You know, having sat here for 14 years, I think every year I've come in here [and] there has been some need," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "When we first got here, to Baltimore, we couldn't play defense. I mean, we could light it up, and we couldn't stop water when it came to playing defense."


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