Tip Sheet: Don't overlook the defenses
MIAMI -- Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, the defenses in Super Bowl XLIV get no respect.Many see Sunday's New Orleans Saints-Indianapolis Colts matchup as a gridiron reenactment of the Shootout at the OK Corral.
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The Saints' strength, as Sharper noted, is taking the ball away. They'll need that key characteristic of blitz-oriented defenses designed by coordinator Gregg Williams against the Colts. Of the 34 Super Bowl games in which a team had an advantage in turnover/takeaway differential, the club that held the edge won 31 times.While the Saints' defensive strength is pounding on offenses, and hoping the cumulative effect of the bludgeoning forces turnovers, the Colts' strong suit is lateral quickness and the ability to get a lot of bodies to the ball. Baltimore Ravens tailback Ray Rice referred to the Indianapolis defense as "a blur" after their AFC divisional-round loss to the Colts. Unlike in the past several seasons, when the Colts relied almost solely on a Cover 2 scheme some players considered too passive, first-year coordinator Larry Coyer has introduced some timely blitzes into the team's repertoire. The Colts blitz judiciously, about 11 percent of the time compared with roughly 2 percent in 2008, but on enough occasions to accentuate their team speed. Opponents have run at the Colts, but rarely around them. Indianapolis has eight defenders who have appeared in a previous Super Bowl. The Saints boast two: Reserve cornerback Randall Gay has appeared in two while a member of the New England Patriots, and safety Sharper -- who played for the Packers against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. "I think we tend to understand the importance of these [playoff] games, even if some people underestimate how important we are to the team," said Colts defensive back Kelvin Hayden, who had an interception return for a touchdown in the Colts' Super Bowl XLI victory over the Chicago Bears. Len Pasquarelli, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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