Indy defense completes transformation
MIAMI (MCT) — Dolphin Stadium is about 350 miles from Jacksonville, but the Indianapolis Colts defense that won Super Bowl XLI on Sunday night is about a million miles from the one the NFL was laughing at two months ago at Alltel Stadium.
How did a unit that was gashed for 375 yards rushing alone that day — and finished last in the league against the run — become such a force in the playoffs?
"No one believed in us," free safety Bob Sanders said amid the glee of a 29-17 defeat of the Chicago Bears. "We pulled together in the postseason and just put it on ourselves to get it done."
Sanders had the second of two fourth-quarter interceptions of Bears quarterback Rex Grossman. The first was by backup cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who was forced into action after starter Nick Harper left the game in the first half with an ankle injury. Hayden probably figured it was a pretty good night for a first career interception and game-changing 56-yard touchdown return with 11:44 to play.
Defensively, the Colts have a lot to be proud of. The team that exited the regular season — the one beaten down 44-17 at Jacksonville on Dec. 10 — ranked 21st in total defense, allowing 332 yards (a NFL-worst 173 rushing) and 19.7 points per game.
"We just did our thing," defensive end Robert Mathis said. "We knew it was about us. Bottom line: For us to be a championship team, it had to happen."