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Archive for Friday, January 19, 2007

Colts still running strong

Rookie Addai, veteran Rhodes keep Indy’s ground game humming

January 19, 2007

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— No Edge? No problem.

The Indianapolis Colts began the season with questions about their ground game after star running back Edgerrin James signed with the Arizona Cardinals. The Colts enter the AFC championship game Sunday with two very good answers - veteran Dominic Rhodes and rookie Joseph Addai.

The duo combined for 285 yards rushing in the Colts' first two playoff games to offset subpar performances by quarterback Peyton Manning. The Colts likely will need more of the same from the tandem to beat the New England Patriots and finally reach the Super Bowl.

"They have worked together very well," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "They're really interchangeable parts. We run the same plays for both guys. When one gets winded, the other one is going in, no matter how the rotation goes. We have confidence in both guys and that's big this time of year."

James left as the Colts' all-time leading rusher with 9,226 yards in seven seasons, but Rhodes and Addai have adequately filled in.

Addai ran for 1,081 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. He burst onto the national scene by running for 171 yards and scoring four touchdowns in a Sunday night win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 26.

Rhodes, who waited patiently for years as James' backup, ran for 641 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season.

New England coach Bill Belichick is impressed with both.

"They're quick, they're strong, they break tackles, they have good run vision," he said. "They're good all-around quality backs. Whichever guy is in there, I think they (the Colts) can do whatever they want to do."

Rhodes said it's a testament to the franchise, from team president Bill Polian on down, that it can lose a player of James' caliber and be right back in the championship hunt the next year.

"It tells you what kind of organization we've built here," Rhodes said. "Mr. Polian and coach Dungy, all our coaches - you've got to take your hat off to them. We have winners here. We put guys in positions to make plays."

Rhodes has been the steady veteran who has accepted whatever role he's been given in his six years as a Colt. When James tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 6 of the 2001 season, Rhodes responded by rushing for 1,104 yards, an NFL record for undrafted rookies. Rhodes missed the 2002 season when he injured his right knee and had shoulder surgery in 2004.

Rhodes started every game during the regular season, but now is Addai's backup. Rhodes said he doesn't mind.

"They asked me to come off the bench and produce, so that's what I'm going to do," Rhodes said.

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