- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

For years, the Indianapolis Colts were all about Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James. And for years, the superstar-driven Colts came up short in the playoffs.

The Colts finally got over the playoff hump Sunday night and will meet the NFC champion Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4 in Miami in part because they have become much more of a team.

Manning remains the game’s elite passer, but his quarterback rating in the Colts’ three-game run through the AFC playoffs was a pedestrian 66.8 thanks to his six interceptions and just two touchdowns passes.

Harrison produced another standout season, but the receiver caught only 10 passes in the Colts’ playoff victories over the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, fourth best on the team.

James ran for 1,000 yards again this season — for his new team, the Arizona Cardinals. His replacements, rookie Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, combined for 410 yards through three games in the postseason, and Addai scored the game-winning touchdown in the Colts’ 38-34 victory over the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

The Colts have found other ways to score that don’t involve Manning’s arm.

Center Jeff Saturday scored against the Patriots on a recovery of a fumble by Rhodes at the goal line, and defensive tackle Dan Klecko scored on a 1-yard tackle eligible reception.

“Who would have thought Klecko would be our top touchdown guy here in the playoffs?” Manning said, chuckling.

Addai, in fact, leads the Colts with two touchdowns in these playoffs. But Harrison’s only points have come on a two-point conversion. Fellow receiver Reggie Wayne, a Pro Bowl selection, has one touchdown catch.

Other lower-profile players have contributed. Tight end Dallas Clark emerged as Manning’s favorite target this month, catching 17 passes for 281 yards. Third-string tight end Bryan Fletcher made a 32-yard reception in the final minutes against the Patriots, setting up Addai’s game-winning touchdown run.

The Colts’ defense also has reversed field dramatically. The Colts surrendered an average of 22.4 points and 336 yards in seven playoff games under coach Tony Dungy the previous four years. They have allowed just 13 points a game and 230 yards a contest this postseason.

The vaunted Bears defense, in comparison, gave up an average of 19 points and 340.5 yards in playoff victories over the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints.

“I was never panicked about our run defense,” Dungy said. “When we have all our tacklers out there and we play fast and play hard, we did fine.”

Even when they fell behind.

The Colts under Manning had lost the previous five playoff games in which they trailed. These Colts rallied from a 21-3 deficit with less than 31 minutes left to beat a tough, experienced Patriots team.

Inspired by Saturday’s speech the night before the game, the Colts refused to buckle.

“Jeff got up and wanted to finish the meeting after I did, and he said, “This is our time. We’ve got to make it happen,’ ” Dungy said.

They did just that because they’re not the same old Colts.

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