Colts have 1, 2, 3 weapons

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, October 14, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By SCOTT M. JOHNSON

Herald Writer

KIRKLAND – Slowing down the Indianapolis Colts offense this season has been as difficult as 1-2-3.

More specifically, Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison are the three weapons the Seattle Seahawks will try to contain today when the teams square off at Husky Stadium at 1:15 p.m.

Indianapolis’ three-headed monster is the biggest reason why the Colts (3-2) rank second in the NFL in offense, behind only the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.

“They’re going to get the ball to those three players,” Seahawks cornerback Shawn Springs said. “You know it, you just have to stop it.”

Slowing down the Colts’ offense is kind of like that Tiger Woods commercial a few years ago where he started a golf lesson by saying, “First, you hit your drive 350 yards.” Everyone knows the key to containing Indianapolis is to take away its three biggest weapons. The question is, how?

“It all starts with the running game,” Seahawks free safety Jay Bellamy said. “If they can run the ball, they’ve got you where they want you; the play-action is going to kill you. … The best thing about their passing game is the play-action. Their play-action gets them big plays and yards all in a big chunk. If you can eliminate the big chunks, you can stay in the game.”

Trying to game-plan for the Colts brings out all the defensive cliches.

“You’ve just got to try to contain them,” middle linebacker George Koonce said. “You’ve got to put pressure on Peyton Manning so he’s got to throw the ball where he doesn’t want to. You can’t let him go through all three, four or five of his progressions. If he does that, he could pick you apart.”

All three Indianapolis players rank fourth in the AFC in their respective categories: Manning in passing (92.6 rating), James in rushing (439 yards) and Harrison in receiving (37 catches). Last season, the trio was involved in almost 99 percent of the Colts’ offensive yardage with the other 77 yards coming from seven completions by backup quarterback Steve Walsh and 14 rushes by Keith Elias and No. 2 receiver Terrence Wilkins.

This season, Manning, James or Harrison has had a hand in all of the Colts’ AFC-high 2,054 yards of offense. Only negating runs have not involved the so-called Big Three.

For as much as they’ve done, Indianapolis’ Big Three doesn’t like the nickname.

“I never liked it when people said that because it takes away from all the hard work of the other people, such as (tight end Ken) Dilger, the offensive line and Terrence Wilkins,” Manning said. “Those guys are making a lot of plays for us this year, but I feel the three of us have handled that well and I have always tried to tell people that we are just a part of the offense.”

“Those three guys get all the media attention and they’re good football players,” Colts coach Jim Mora said, “but I think it’s a mistake if you disregard some of our other players. And I know we wouldn’t. If I was coaching the defense and we were playing the Colts, I wouldn’t just say if we stop those three guys, we’re going to win.”

Even some of the Colts’ other weapons rely on Manning. The No. 1 pick in the 1998 NFL draft, Manning has already emerged into one of the league’s best quarterbacks. Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren marvels at the 24-year-old’s maturity, pointing toward an upbringing from a father (Archie) who played 14 seasons in the NFL as well as Manning’s decision to stick around for his senior year at the University of Tennessee in 1997.

“He’s a special kid, there’s no question about it,” said Holmgren, who knows a thing or two about quarterbacks.

James was the missing piece last season, gaining 1,553 yards on his way to earning rookie-of-the-year honors. His size (6-foot, 216 pounds), vision and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield make him one of the most dangerous all-around weapons in the entire NFL.

“It’s one of those things where it’s going to take a gallant effort from the defense to gang tackle and get (number) 32,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Sinclair said, referring to James. “Looking at film, you hardly ever see someone tackle him one-on-one. It requires that every man has to be disciplined in his gap.

“He was nice when he was a rookie. Now he’s nicer.”

Harrison has been Manning’s favorite target for more than two years. He set a team record last season with 115 catches for 1,663 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“They have superstars at each of those positions,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell said. “The thing you don’t realize is they’ve got three more receivers other than Harrison that could play and contribute to any team in this league.

“You take a look at their tight ends: Dilger is an excellent tight end, (Marcus) Pollard is an excellent downfield threat in the passing game. Their offensive line is very solid. They’ve just got really good personnel all over the board with their offensive team.”

But it all starts with one, two and three.

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