The game plan
INDY'S GAME PLAN
1. Go after the Saints' weak corners. The Colts have a series of mismatches in the passing game and should relentlessly attack the Saints' shaky secondary. Mike McKenzie is a solid corner, but Jason David and Fred Thomas struggle covering top receivers. The Colts run several combinations of crossing routes so their talented trio (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and rookie Anthony Gonzalez) should have plenty of room to run away from the Saints' defensive backs.
2. Use Joseph Addai on draws and screens. The Saints will try to pressure Peyton Manning into mistakes by using a series of blitzes, but Manning should use Addai on draws and screens to slow the rush down. Addai has the quickness to make defenders miss in the open field and is tough enough to bang between the tackles. Look for Manning to feed him plenty of carries on draws and delays.
3. Stay patient with the Tampa 2. The Saints' explosive offense poses a tremendous challenge, but the Colts should stick to their two-deep coverage and avoid using eight-man fronts. The Saints' running game sets up their deep vertical attack, and dropping a safety in the box would leave Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson alone outside. The Colts are better off letting Deuce McAllister get his yards while limiting big play opportunities.
SAINTS GAME PLAN
1. Run the football. The Saints' power running game poses a huge problem for the Colts' undersized front four. Without DT Anthony McFarland in the lineup, the Colts' lack a stout player in the middle. The Saints' massive offensive line should not have a problem creating running lanes. Hoping to wear down the Colts' small front and to keep Manning on the sideline, expect the Saints' to give McAllister and Reggie Bush a combined 30-plus carries.
2. Use McAllister and Bush in the same backfield. The Saints two-back package should be used extensively on early downs. The Colts' linebackers are not great space players, which means deploying Bush in multiple spots out of the backfield would create several mismatches. Bush's ability as a receiver will draw extra defenders out of the box and create bigger running lanes for McAllister. The Saints' have used this personnel package occasionally in the past, but expect to see it a lot versus the Colts.
3. Send pressure from the left. Rookie Tony Ugoh gets the start in his first pro game and the Saints should test his mettle by sending an assortment of stunts and blitzes to his side. Slanting Charles Grant inside with Scott Fujita or Roman Harper coming off the edge is one of the many combinations Gary Gibbs should throw at Ugoh. The Saints have to get pressure on Manning to have any chance of slowing down the Colts' explosive offense.