Despite a 27-17 lead in the fourth quarter of the AFCCG, Colts fans collectively blurted out an "Uh oh!" when they saw Dwight Freeney hop off the field following an incomplete pass by Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. The reason for concern was that Freeney's hopping looked awfully similar to the hopping he did off the Chargers home field at the mid-point of the 2007 season. In that game, Freeney broke his foot, ending his 2007 season and any realistic hope the Colts had of winning a second consecutive Super Bowl. In fact, any time Freeney seems to get up slow or limp or have a hang nail, we Colts fans ring our hands and fret because we know that, other than Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney is one of the most important players on this Colts roster.
Thankfully, we now have some reliable updates on Freeney's injury. They come from the team president himself, Bill Polian (via John Oehser):
Indianapolis Colts DE Dwight Freeney sustained a sprained ankle in the AFC Championship Game, but likely will play in the Super Bowl.
Freeney, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, could miss practice time this week, but will undergo treatment, and Colts President Bill Polian said on his weekly radio show Monday, "I don’t think it will have any real effect on the Super Bowl, especially if we get that treatment going as quickly as possible."
Earlier this year, we worried that the quad strain Freeney sustained during the Cardinals game would end his season. Thankfully, it didn't. Freeney played the next game against the Seahawks, and had a major impact.
The reason Colts fans fret over Freeney is because the pass rush simply does not work consistently without him. We saw the Texans in Week 12 jump out to a 17-0 lead due in part to the Colts having difficultly mustering a pass rush sans Freeney. The Colts rallied and won the game 35-27, scoring 28 unanswered points at one point. One reason for the rally was Larry Coyer made some defensive adjustments that allowed Robert Mathis and Raheem Brock to pressure Matt Schaub. While the win was huge and a definite confidence builder, in many ways it reinforced the notion that the Colts absolutely must have a 100% healthy Dwight Freeney to play the kind of defense we've seen the last two weeks.
This, more than other factors, is a likely reason why Bill Polian was so adamant about resting starters in Weeks 16 and 17.
With the good news on Freeney, we breath a small sigh of relief. The Saints are an amazing passing football team. Facing that without Dwight Freeney is not a prospect that I wish to think about.