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In Super Bowl, Two Backs Worked For Indy


As the Redskins regroup and begin to look ahead to 2007, they can learn a key lesson from Super Bowl XLI: a two-back system can get the job done in the NFL.

When the Redskins re-signed Ladell Betts last December, the words "running back controversy" were whispered by fans and media alike.

With feature back Clinton Portis coming off an injury-plagued 2006 and with Ladell Betts fresh off his finest NFL season, how would they co-exist in the same backfield in 2007?

The answer was found in South Florida.

Indianapolis won Super Bowl XLI behind quarterback Peyton Manning and an aggressive defense. The other factor--and perhaps the most significant--in the Colts' 29-17 win over the Bears had to do with Indy's double-pronged running game.

Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai were outstanding.

They combined for 190 yards, 113 on 21 carries by Rhodes and 77 on 19 carries by Addai. The rookie from LSU also caught 10 passes for 66 yards in soggy South Florida.

Rather than depend on the usual recipe of Manning passing to Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison, the Colts put it in the hands of Addai and then Rhodes.

"We showed we could win [in] many ways," winning head coach Tony Dungy told reporters afterward.

Meantime, the Bears went into the game with the idea of sharing the running game between two backs as well.

Thomas Jones ended up getting most of the work after Cedric Benson exited early due to a knee injury. With Benson no longer available, Chicago's options were limited. The Bears seemed to go downhill, however slowly, once Benson was out of the game.

Jones was a determined player for Chicago, finishing with 112 yards on 15 carries. But he couldn't match the output of Addai and Rhodes all by himself.

The MVP of the game, Manning, explained to the media in Miami that Rhodes and Addai have been a great combination for the Colts this season.

"It took us 16 games to find out it was better for Joe to start and Dom to come off the bench," Manning said. "That one-two punch sure was outstanding for us throughout the playoffs."

Rhodes, who played for years in the shadows of Edgerrin James, is more of a between-the-tackles runner than is his teammate Addai.

Together, Rhodes and Addai combined for 1,722 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season.

Those numbers were only slightly better than the Portis-Betts combo. Portis and Betts combined for 1,677 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

Portis, of course, was sidelined for the last seven games with a host of injuries. That's when Betts took over. Still, it's not difficult to imagine both Portis and Betts serving similar roles to Rhodes and Addai.

On Sunday night in Miami, Rhodes clearly was the best back on the field.

With fresh legs, he appeared to be content to save the best for last this postseason, as he has been most effective in the latter stages of games.

It's debatable whether Rhodes or Manning was more deserving of the Super Bowl MVP honor.

After the game, Rhodes told reporters: "I'm more of a downhill guy. I like to say my running style works in any conditions because I just go. Our line was making great holes, and I was trying to hit them and produce for us. It was a team win."

The Rhodes-Addai dynamic tipped the scales in the Colts' favor on the biggest stage the NFL has to offer.

On this count, you have to imagine the Redskins were taking note.

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