Addai helps Colts run past Bears

Joseph Addai ran the ball well. He led the Colts in receptions. And the rookie is a big reason the Colts are Super Bowl champs, writes John Clayton.

Originally Published: February 4, 2007
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

MIAMI -- On Thursday, rookie halfback Joseph Addai, known for his humble demeanor, unveiled a T-shirt that said "Not An Average Joe."

Addai proved he was no average rookie by rushing for 77 yards and catching 10 passes for 66 in the Indianapolis Colts' 29-17 Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. During the hype of Super Bowl XLI, the national media made a big deal about the one-two punch of Bears halfbacks Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. The Addai-Dominic Rhodes duo seemed to be an afterthought.

Joseph Addai
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesJoseph Addai not only hurt the Bears by running for 77 yards but also caught a team-high 10 passes for 66 yards.
As it turned out, the Addai-Rhodes combination was the secret weapon that helped Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy win their first Super Bowl. During the regular season, Dungy started six-year veteran Rhodes and let Addai come off the bench and eventually get more carries.

Dungy switched that up in the playoffs by starting Addai and using Rhodes as the backup.

"Dominic and Joseph have been great for us this season," Manning said. "It took us 16 games to find out it was better for Joe to start and Dom to come off the bench. That one-two punch sure was outstanding for us throughout the playoffs."

The Colts' running game gashed the Bears for 191 yards on 42 carries. Rhodes had 113 yards and 21 hard carries. Addai destroyed the Bears with his hands and his feet.

"I think Joseph is more of a jump-around guy and I'm more of a downhill guy," Rhodes said. "I like to say my running style works in any conditions because I just go. Our line was making great holes, and I was trying to hit them and produce for us. It was a team win."

Manning usually takes a quarter to figure out a defense. Addai became the main focus of the Colts' offense once Manning got onto a roll in the second quarter. By halftime, Addai had 12 carries for 38 yards and six catches for 47.

"You have to respect Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning," Addai said of the Colts' three main offensive weapons. "Me and Dominic were able to get those short passes and turn them into something big."

Because the Bears' safeties were playing 18 yards deep and the linebackers were dropping into coverage, Addai was open for screen and swing passes. He was no ordinary Joe in the way Manning used him. In the second half, Rhodes dominated with his downhill style. He had 14 carries for 77 yards in the final two quarters and helped end any chance of a Bears comeback.

"Me and Dominic were able to get them into space and make them miss," Addai said. "I was telling Peyton, 'Look, those short passes are open and we can take advantage of that,' so he's been sticking with that and he understood that he didn't have to do it by himself. He understood that he had other players around to make it happen, too."

It's no ordinary rookie who can give play-calling advice to Manning. The show of respect came when Manning listened.

The NFL has become a two-back league. It's increasingly rare to find teams relying on one running back. LaDainian Tomlinson is the league's best runner, but he had Michael Turner coming off the bench to give him a break.

But the Rhodes-Addai combination could be breaking up. Rhodes is a free agent after the season, and it has become apparent Addai is going to be the starter next year. There is no guarantee Rhodes will get a starting job from another team, but some club might be willing to outbid the Colts to get him.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Rhodes said. "I love my teammates. I'd love to come back. I just don't know."

Those thoughts are for the offseason. For now, though, the Colts realize they won the battle of the backfield. Addai and Rhodes outperformed Jones and Benson to win Super Bowl XLI.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer