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Super Bowl sends clear message to Colts: Pass rush is crucial

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The Broncos' win over the Panthers in the Super Bowl sends a clear message to the Colts: pass rush is a crucial part of a successful football team.

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If there was one thing that was incredibly clear while watching the Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl, it was this: pass rush is really important.

For the Broncos, Von Miller starred and was rightfully named Super Bowl MVP, recording 2.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, and two forced fumbles while also making six tackles and breaking up a pass.  For the Panthers, Kony Ealy would likely have been named MVP had Carolina won, as Ealy recorded three sacks, two quarterback hits, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, two tackles for loss, a pass defended, an interception, and four tackles.

As a team, the Broncos recorded seven sacks, four forced fumbles, and 13 quarterback hits, while the Panthers recorded five sacks, two forced fumbles, and five quarterback hits.  It was a game very much dominated by the defenses and, more specifically, the pass rushes.  That was true of the entire playoffs too, as the Broncos and the Panthers both excelled in the area.  In three postseason games, the Broncos recorded 14 sacks, 33 quarterback hits, and six forced fumbles.  Likewise, the Panthers also played in three postseason games and recorded 13 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, and four forced fumbles.  I hope you get the idea: pass rush was a crucial part of each team's playoff run and, ultimately, was what helped lead Denver to the Super Bowl championship.

It was hard to watch it from a Colts' perspective, then, and think anything other than this: the Colts really need pass rush help.  That has been evident for the past several seasons when watching the team play, but it was once again clear on Super Bowl Sunday.  Some may suggest the offensive line is the biggest issue, but I will continue to say what I've said for a while: the pass rush is the Colts' biggest area of need.

In 2015, the Colts struggled to rush the opposing passer.  Kendall Langford and Robert Mathis tied for the team lead in sacks with seven each, while nobody else had more than three.  The Colts pass rush never really took over a game, besides for a few moments here or there (the Buccaneers and Dolphins games are the only ones that seem to have had any of those moments).  In other games, such as the ones against the Steelers or the Bills, the Colts failed to generate any pressure.  It was a very up and down year for the unit filled with plenty of downs and few ups, and that's the way it has been for the past several seasons.

The moves the Colts have made have not worked out.  Trent Cole, signed to be a pass rusher, failed to produce.  Bjoern Werner, drafted to be a pass rusher, failed to produce.  Jonathan Newsome, expected to take a step forward in his sophomore season, instead regressed.  It wasn't supposed to be Robert Mathis, 34 years old and coming off of a torn Achilles, shouldering the pass rush load, but that's what it turned into.

New defensive coordinator Ted Monachino is on record as saying the pass rush is his number one priority, as that area will directly impact other areas, such as the secondary and their coverage.  He's exactly right, and improving the Colts' ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks would be the single biggest boost the team could get heading into 2016 - besides, of course, the return of Andrew Luck.

We saw during the Colts' incredible run of success in the Peyton Manning era just how good and dangerous a great pass rush duo could be, as Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis caused havoc for opposing quarterbacks.  We've seen during the past few years how damaging the lack of a pass rush can be for a defense.  And we saw very clearly in the Super Bowl that pass rush plays a huge part in building championship teams.  As the Colts were watching the Broncos win on Sunday night, we can only hope that they noticed the same thing.