49ers Clubhouse 

About The Colts

November, 23, 2001

by James Parrott
Clubhouse Staff Writer

In 1999 after a season in which Marshall Faulk established himself as the hub of the Indianapolis Colts, the former San Diego State running back looked at his situation and not unreasonably asked for a new contract.

All well and good there. With the previous years first overall draft pick Peyton Manning at quarterback, Faulk to be locked up to a long term extension, Marvin Harrison at receiver as well as a top five draft pick to improve the defence it was looking up for Indianapolis, a city used to the losing inflicted upon them by the ineptitude of former owner Robert Irsay.

Instead of going along with that though, team President Bill Polian traded Faulk for second and fifth round picks to St. Louis and drafted Miami of Florida running back Edgerrin James fourth overall.

That years top defensive prospects, cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Chris McAllister went to Washington and Baltimore respectively, with defensive tackle Anthony McFarland falling to Tampa Bay and defensive end Jevon Kearse doing likewise to Tennessee.

Not only that, but the two draft picks from the Faulk deal netted the Colts with what was essentially a wasted draft. In the second round Polian drafted linebacker Mike Peterson and took Penn State Brad Scioli. Peterson may well be the best defender on the team, but that pales in comparison to Faulks Superbowl ring and league MVP award since joining St. Louis.

Fast forward to late November 2001. James is out for the season, and so it would seem is the Colts defence. At present, the Colts rank 26th in total defence, give up 28.7 points per game and stand at 4-5 despite having won their first two games easily.

Polian is viewed by many as a master when it comes to player personnel. The best counters to that argument are his tenures in Carolina and Indianapolis.

Carolina stocked up on veteran defensive standouts and won 20 games it's first two years, reaching the NFC championship game after the 1996 season. They also drafted abysmally and with no talent base to speak of look to struggle for a long time.

Indianapolis had high picks in 1998 and 1999. They drafted Manning and James and stocked up on offence. They also drafted poorly when it came to building their defence and overspent on free agents defensive end Chad Bratzke and defensive backs Jeff Burris and Chad Cota.

The result is that they resemble the AFC East teams of the 1980's and early '90's who failed to win a single Superbowl, despite reaching seven between them from 1984 - 96.

This season has seen James sidelined with a knee injury, and opposing defences key in on Manning. In the first month of the season he threw nine interceptions and frequently saw them run back for touchdowns.

The Colts are a one dimensional team now, relying on one facet of one unit. A passing team with no run game or defence will not win a championship in the NFL. Coach Jim Mora Sr could well be fired at the end of this season. If that is true then Polian should go too, and so should Bratzke, Burris, Cota, Ellis Johnson and numerous other from that side of the ball.

The offensive line stands to be decimated by free agency next spring. Depth too could well be reduced to a mere memory.

That said, the Colts remain a dangerous team to play and will for a while. They literally can score from anywhere on the field and with anybody, and their defence occasionally dominates opposing offences.

They also play in a dome, and should benefit from the crowd noise, although they are currently on a three game home losing streak and a two game skid altogether.

The keys to beating them will be:

1) The defensive line must stop the Colts halfback Dominic Rhodes, thus freeing up other players to look for the pass. Not only that, but they need to get to Manning for some sacks and hits as he throws. Manning has a hairline fracture of the jaw and behind him sits ageing veteran Mark Rypien.

2) Isolate receivers on cornerback David Macklin. Macklin has been victimised by every opponent he's faced this year. Get behind him and long gains and touchdowns will surely result from this most telling of size mismatches.

3) Run the ball effectively to keep the Colts defence guessing. If they can concentrate on rushing the passer then their job is a whole lot easier.

4) Don't fall behind early. The Colts scored on their first play from scrimmage in New Orleans last week. They still lost by 14 but if they can mix up the play calling instead of having to put more points on the board then Manning will be more effective.

Key matchups:

Dana Stubblefield vs. Ryan Diem
The veteran tackle has to dominate against the rookie who is currently filling in at left guard. If this happens early then the Colts will have to give Diem help leading to more one-on-ones for Bryant Young.

Ahmed Plummer vs. Marvin Harrison
Jerome Pathon is on injured reserve and Reggie Wayne is listed as questionable. If Plummer can limit Harrison to minimal impact then Manning will have to go elsewhere. Then Jason Webster and others will have some opportunities to make big plays.

49ers receivers vs. Colts secondary
JJ Stokes and Tai Streets will need to play well again and force the Colts to slide some coverages away from Terrell Owens. That said, Owens still beats double teams every week.

Julian Peterson vs. Ken Dilger & Marcus Pollard
Peterson's coverage skills will be tested by two tight ends who have Mannings confidence. Pollard scored from 91 yards last week against the Saints. Dilger is a reliable and undervalued player with excellent receiving skills.

The 49ers were tired after last weeks overtime win in Carolina. They need a physical, high energy performance from the opening kick off to the very end this week. 49ers by 7

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