Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots - Colts I

To find out more about how the Patriots' opponent this week -- the Indianapolis Colts -- is doing, we checked in with Editor Eric Hartz. In Part 1 of this multi-part series, we take a look at the Colts' offense.

1. The Colts have had years of success under Tony Dungy, but now their finding similar success under first year head coach Jim Caldwell. Why has that success continued and what impact did Dungy’s departure have on the team?

Eric Hartz: Everyone associated with the Colts, from the fans, to the players, to the front office and even the office staff was sad to see Dungy go. His calm, pleasant demeanor isn't just something he puts on for the public or for "Football Night in America" — he really is that nice a guy. But the organization has proved itself stable enough to take the loss of Dungy in stride, thanks in no small part to dedicated leadership at the top from owner Jim Irsay and team president Bill Polian. Caldwell has taken the tutelage he received under Dungy and added his own twists — the players say he can be a bit more fiery, and he hasn't been afraid to make players fight for their jobs or even bench those that are underperforming. He's still learning on the job — as evidenced by some questionable fourth-down decisions and an ill-timed timeout attempting to ice Houston's Kris Brown last week — but it's difficult to argue with the results so far.

2. The Colts selected Donald Brown in the 1st round of the 2009 Draft, just three years after taking Joseph Addai (2006) in the first round, and one year after grabbing Mike Hart (Michigan) in the 6th round. Why did the Colts need another running back, is Addai on his way out?

EH: Since the departure of Edgerrin James, the Colts' running game has always been most effective when Addai has had someone to share the carries with. The best example was in 2006, when the Colts won the Super Bowl behind the solid 1-2 punch of Dominic Rhodes and Addai. Addai has never been a workhorse back, dating back to his days as a high-school quarterback, and he was always part of a platoon in college as well. Brown has shown signs of being a special back and in turn should make both players better. With Brown in the mix, I do question whether the Colts will pony up the cash to re-up with Addai when his rookie contract ends, but for the time being, I think the team is quite comfortable with its running back situation. Hart is undersized, doesn't have great speed and has battled injuries for most of his two-year career, and I question how much of a contribution he will ever make in Indianapolis.

3. Indianapolis is the 4th best overall offense (400.4 ypg) in the NFL; 1st overall passing (315.0 ypg) and 29th rushing (85.4 ypg). Even with all those running backs, the Colts are a primarily a passing team, why?

EH: I would point to the struggles of the offensive line. Ryan Lilja, an undersized guard to begin with, missed all of 2008 with a knee injury, although he has looked healthy this season. But the team invested second-round picks on tackle Tony Ugoh in 2007 and guard Mike Pollak in 2008, and both have been huge disappointments. Both lost their starting jobs this season to the much less-heralded Charlie Johnson and Kyle DeVan. Add in an aging Jeff Saturday that remains savvy, but isn't the dominating player he was two or three years ago, and you get a team that will struggle to push the pile up front.

4. The whole Brady vs Manning debate seems pointless when the two are obviously two of the best to ever play the position. When Brady broke Manning’s TD record, what was the reaction from Peyton?

EH: While records are nice — and Manning will likely end up with most of the NFL's career passing records when all is said and done — the only stat Manning really desires is wins. Manning's biggest disappointment in the 2007 season was that the Colts didn't repeat as Super Bowl champions, although he was no doubt happy to see younger brother Eli pull off the upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

5. How have injuries impacted the Colts offense? What have they done to overcome those injuries?

EH: The biggest one has been the injury to wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who was projected to help fill the void left by the departure of Marvin Harrison. Gonzalez went down in the first quarter of the first game, but Manning has done a remarkable job of getting second-year WR Pierre Garçon and rookie Austin Collie up to speed. Both have looked strong at times this season, but their inexperience has shown a bit the last couple of weeks. Both Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark have also stepped up with some of the best performances of their already impressive careers, as well. Brown has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, but Addai has done a nice job picking up the workload. It remains to be seen if he can continue to do so for the duration of the season, however.

Eric Hartz writes fro, the Indianapolis Colts site on the network You can find more of his work here: (Archives)

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