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Colts’ Dwight Freeney will go after Saints’ Drew Brees

What the Indianapolis Colts’ defense needs to concentrate on to stop the New Orleans Saints’ offense in the Super Bowl (Feb. 7, 3:15 p.m. PST, Ch. 2):

Ice Man Cometh

This is Dwight Freeney’s stage. The Colts defensive end, who tied for third in the league with 13 1/2 sacks this season, plays big in big games. Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod got some blocking help Sunday and did a solid job against Minnesota’s Jared Allen. The Saints need an encore against one of the NFL’s most dangerous whirling-dervish pass rushers.

Freeney is so quick around the edge that it’s very difficult for bigger left tackles to get back quickly enough to seal off that path. And when they do, Freeney has a blindingly fast “ice pick” spin inside that might just get him to the quarterback anyway. Any extra separation between the tackle and guard, and Freeney can slip through and make the play.

Bid Adieu to (total) Cover 2

Under former defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, the Colts were exclusively a Cover 2 team that gave up yardage underneath in favor of forcing offenses to nickel and dime their way down the field (and, ideally, make a mistake along the way).

But new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer has a much more aggressive approach, mixing in blitzes and coverage variations that take advantage of the speed and athleticism of his players.

That’s not to say the Colts won’t run Cover 2 schemes. It’s just that they’re open to trying some new looks.

That’s not Flacco or Sanchez back there

The Colts held Baltimore to three points, and the New York Jets to 17. But remember, those teams didn’t get to the postseason because of their quarterbacks, but by running the ball and playing tough defense. The Saints have Drew Brees back there, the runner-up to Peyton Manning for the most-valuable-player award. The Saints are going to sling it, and the Colts can’t panic if they give up as many points in the first half against New Orleans as they did in their first two playoff games combined.

Take it slow

Both of these teams play indoors on synthetic surfaces. This Super Bowl is outdoors and on grass.

Although the impact of that will be too subtle for the naked eye to catch, it does have some effect.

Another viewpoint

CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe: “New Orleans is going to want to run the football. They’re not going to want to be in a situation where they’re in third and long, because then they’d be playing right into the hands of what the Colts are very good at. That puts pressure on the quarterback. So I think they’re going to pound the football early on, keep them in manageable down and distance, and try to take the pressure off of Drew Brees.”

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer


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