Ankle injury catches up with Dwight Freeney in the second half
PHOTOS () —
By Mike Berardino
MIAMI — Dwight Freeney gave it a go.
Just by taking the field, the speedy defensive end was inspirational. At times early on, he even looked dominant spearheading the Colts' pass rush.
Eventually, however, as the Saints pulled away for a 31-17 victory Sunday night at Sun Life Stadium, it appeared that injured right ankle — the most famous body part in the runup to Super Bowl XLIV — got the best of Freeney.
"Obviously it wasn't 100 percent," Freeney said of an injury suffered in the AFC Championship two weeks earlier. "It diminished a little bit in the second half."
A 28-minute halftime break didn't help.
"I think what happened at the half was more stiffness," Freeney said. "The problem is once it gets stiff, it's tough to bring it back."
Freeney had the ankle retaped at the half and then again early in the second half. He kept trotting up and down on the Colts sideline in an effort to keep the ankle loose, but he was fighting a losing battle.
The five-time Pro Bowl pick sacked Drew Brees once in the first half, but Freeney just couldn't get to Brees often enough to keep the Saints quarterback from picking apart the young Colts' secondary.
Brees, the game's MVP, finished with 288 yards on 32 of 39 passing. He threw two touchdowns and no interceptions and was sacked just once — by Freeney in the second quarter.
On the Saints' second possession, Freeney pushed third-year left tackle Jermon Bushrod deep into the pocket. The sack came on the next series, with Freeney reaching out with a meaty left hand and flinging Brees to the ground.
Freeney punctuated that moment with a salute and a couple of chest thumps. He appeared poised for a big night.
Soon after, however, Freeney's effectiveness began to wane noticeably. He was quiet for long stretches as the Saints spread out the Colts' defense with three- and four-wide sets and neutralized the pass rush with quick drops by Brees.
"What was going on was in the first half he was holding onto the ball and giving us opportunities to get there," Freeney said. " In the second half, that ball was gone. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three. He did a great job in that second half."
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