Indianapolis Colts: Dwight Freeney

Who belongs on Colts' Mount Rushmore?

February, 13, 2014
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LeBron James, the best all-around NBA player walking on this planet, raised a lot of eyebrows and took the attention off of Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant momentarily earlier this week when he said he should be on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore.

The Indianapolis Colts have the Ring of Honor, but what about a Mount Rushmore, where only the best of the best belong?

Four players and four players only since the team moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis.

Here are my three players, with the fourth one up in the air.

QB Peyton Manning: Is there any question about that the player who spent 14 years with the Colts, led them to two Super Bowl appearances and set countless team records? His face has already been chipped away on top of the mountain even though he’s still slinging balls down field and yelling “Omaha” at the line of scrimmage for the Denver Broncos.

WR Marvin Harrison: Who needs the Hall of Fame when you have Mount Rushmore? Just joking. Harrison will end up in the Hall of Fame sooner than later. Harrison is in the NFL’s all-time top seven in yards (14,580), touchdowns (128) and receptions (1,102).

WR Reggie Wayne: Wayne’s season got cut short because of a torn ACL in Week 7, but not before passing Randy Moss and Hines Ward for the eighth-most receptions (1,006), Steve Largent, Andre Reed and Torry Holt for 11th-most receiving yards (13,566) and Charley Taylor and Harold Carmichael for 23rd-most receiving touchdowns (80). He hopes to continue to move up the record book when he returns next season.

The fourth one is where the dilemma lies.

Robert Mathis? Dwight Freeney? Edgerrin James? What about Jeff Saturday?

An argument could be made for all of them to be up there.

Robert Mathis finishes 2nd in DPOY

February, 1, 2014
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What could have been an incredible day for the Indianapolis Colts didn't end the way they hoped.

Mathis
Shortly after receiver Marvin Harrison and coach Tony Dungy found out they will not be heading to the Hall of Fame this year, linebacker Robert Mathis learned he wasn’t this season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Mathis finished second behind Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly for the award.

Kuechly led the NFC in tackles with 156, including 24 against New Orleans in Week 16.

Mathis didn’t win Defensive Player of the Year, but he still had a successful season.

He also proved the naysayers wrong who doubted that he could dominate without Dwight Freeney on the other side.

The best part about Mathis playing with the chip on his shoulder?

He had no problem saying the doubters motivated him.

Mathis led the league in sacks with 19.5 and forced fumbles with eight. He had 46.4 percent of the Colts’ sacks this season, because they only had 42 as a team. The eight forced fumbles led to 35 Colts points.

Indianapolis Colts season wrap-up

January, 15, 2014
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 8
Preseason Power Ranking: 10

Biggest surprise: The questions were valid. Was linebacker Robert Mathis' production a product of having sack-machine Dwight Freeney playing on the other side? Could Mathis still be an impact player without Freeney? Mathis silenced the naysayers when he led the league in sacks with 19.5, including seven strip sacks. Mathis didn't hide the fact that he wanted to quiet the doubters. What made his season even more special is that he did it without much help elsewhere, as the Colts had only 42 sacks as a team. Mathis is one of the front-runners to be the league's defensive player of the year.

Biggest disappointment: Safety LaRon Landry was supposed to have the same kind of impact Bob Sanders had when he played for the Colts. That's why general manager Ryan Grigson signed him to four-year, $24 million contract. Landry was good when he was able to come up with the big hits or touchdown-saving tackles, but it was too often that he ended up whiffing on a play. The plays on which he missed running back Jamaal Charles on a touchdown run in the regular-season game against Kansas City and New England's LeGarrette Blount on his touchdown run last weekend are two examples that quickly come to mind. It also doesn't help that Landry missed four games because of injury this season.

Biggest need: Help on both lines -- offensive and defensive -- should be at the top of Grigson's list during the offseason. The Colts are set at offensive tackle with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus. Donald Thomas will be back to take one of the guard spots after he missed most of the season with a quad injury, but the other guard spot and center could use upgrades. The Colts need a defensive tackle who can clog the middle of the line.

Team MVP: This is a no-brainer. Quarterback Andrew Luck was mentioned as a league MVP candidate at one point in the season. The second-year quarterback overcame injuries to five key offensive starters -- including future Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne -- to cut his interceptions in half, increase his completion percentage and throw the same number of touchdown passes despite 52 fewer attempts. Take Luck out of the lineup and the Colts would have won maybe six games this season.

 

Mathis moves up in Pro Bowl voting

December, 19, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis has moved up a spot in the Pro Bowl voting.

Mathis, who surpassed Dwight Freeney to be the team's all-time leader in career and single-season sacks last weekend, is second in voting for outside linebackers. Mathis has 279,080 votes. Kansas City's Tamba Hali is still the top vote-getter with 293,303 votes.

Mathis still leads the league in sacks with 16.5.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (449,984) fell a spot to seventh in the voting for quarterbacks. Kicker Adam Vinatieri (53,379) fell two spots in the voting to 10th.

Denver's Peyton Manning is still sitting on top of the voting with 1,227,068 votes.

Fan voting, which counts for one-third of the ballot, ends Dec. 26. Coaches and players make up the remaining two-thirds of the voting. They vote Dec. 23-26.

From small-college player to sack leader

December, 15, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The questions surrounding Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis' effectiveness started when his partner in crime for 10 years, Dwight Freeney, went out West to San Diego.

Can Mathis still be a dominating pass-rusher without Freeney?

How much did Freeney help Mathis become a Pro Bowl player?

Mathis started answering those questions when he became just the 30th player in league history to record at least 100 career sacks after he got to Seattle's Russell Wilson in Week 5.

[+] EnlargeRobert Mathis
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsWith this sack of Case Keenum, Robert Mathis set the single-season and career sack records for the Colts.
Then, in front of a Lucas Oil Stadium crowd, Mathis moved past Freeney in the team's record books.

Mathis became the team's all-time leader for sacks in a single season (16.5) and career (108) when he beat Houston Texans left tackle Duane Brown for a sack of quarterback Case Keenum in the third quarter of the Colts' 25-3 victory. It was only fitting that Mathis set the record with one of his trademark strip sacks.

"I enjoyed it to the utmost," Mathis said. "Never take it for granted because it is such an accomplishment. It's just still unbelievable. Just happy to have it."

Mathis needed a bounce-back game after the Cincinnati Bengals shut him down on Dec. 8. It took almost three quarters, but Mathis is too good of a player not to get involved after the Colts' defense was shutting Houston's offense down and already had intercepted two Case Keenum passes in the first half.

The Texans had the ball at their own 7-yard line when Brown kept Mathis away from Keenum for three seconds, but the Colts linebacker wasn't going to be stopped. Mathis got by Brown on the fourth second and ripped the ball out of Keenum's hands. Brown fell on the ball in the end zone. Mathis was given the ball and then acknowledged the crowd for giving him an ovation.

"Duane Brown is a very good O-tackle," Mathis said. "He's a very strong guy. Just had to stay with it and saw the quarterback roll out and was able to get to him. That was about it. Just make a play for the team."

Mathis will have to make room in his locker to put the ball next to the hundred dollar bill he has framed in there signifying his 100th sack.

Sitting at the top of the team's record books signals how far Mathis has come in his career after being told he wasn't talented enough and that he was too small to play in the NFL after coming out Alabama A&M, which was a NCAA Division I-AA school when he played there in 2003.

But Mathis has continued to prove the naysayers wrong. He did it while playing with Freeney, and now he's doing it even more without him.

"He should be, in my opinion and probably everybody else's opinion that's certainly a Colts fan and part of this organization, in the conversation someday to be in the Hall of Fame I would think," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "Doing what he's done for as long a period that he's done and the records that he has, who knows? We'll see. He's got my vote. I don't have one, but he's got it anyway."

Mathis doesn't plan on calling it quits anytime soon, so his next possible honor could be defensive player of the year.

That wouldn't be too bad for a player very few thought could give opposing quarterbacks nightmares.

"It's a bit surreal," Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. "He's everything you could ask for in a leader, a locker room guy, in a veteran, the example he sets, his work ethic. He's one of those guys that all the great things that happen, he deserves because he puts the work in. He does go the extra mile for it."

Upon Further Review: Colts Week 14

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
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CINCINNATI -- An examination of five topics from the Indianapolis Colts' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Locked in at fourth seed: The Colts will finish with the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs barring a collapse from the third-seeded Bengals in their final three games of the season. Cincinnati’s remaining three games are at Pittsburgh and home against Minnesota and Baltimore. The Colts will play the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening weekend of the playoffs if the standings remain the same the rest of the season. The Chiefs (10-3) have a better record than the Colts (8-5), but the game would be played at Lucas Oil Stadium because Indianapolis won the AFC South. A preview of that playoff matchup takes place Dec. 22 in Kansas City.

Luck
Richardson
Shuffling line: The Colts used their fifth different starting offensive line against the Bengals. Mike McGlynn moved back into the starting lineup at guard because Jeff Linkenbach was out and Joe Reitz started for the injured Hugh Thornton at the other guard spot. The negative is that the Colts rushed for only 63 yards -- partially because they fell behind so early -- but the positive is that quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t get sacked and he passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns. Sunday was the first time that Luck threw four touchdown passes without an interception in a game. McGlynn is the likely candidate to go back to the bench once Thornton returns from his neck injury.

Waiting another week: Linebacker Robert Mathis will have to wait at least another week before passing Dwight Freeney as the team’s all-time sack leader. Mathis was nonexistent against the Bengals. He finished with only one assisted tackle. Sunday was only the fourth game this season that Mathis didn’t record a sack. He has 107 career sacks and trails Freeney by only half a sack for the team record

A factor in the backfield: Running back Trent Richardson gained only 20 yards on six carries, but he did have a part in the passing game. He tied his season high in catches with five for 68 yards. The Colts need to make Richardson a bigger part of their passing game because he excelled in that area last season with the Cleveland Browns. He finished his rookie season with 51 catches for 367 yards and a touchdown.

Struggles on third down: So much has been made about the defense’s inability to stop teams on third down, but the offense has its own problem converting on third down. The Colts were 2-of-10 on third down, which is a major reason why the Bengals had the ball 15 minutes more than them. Sunday marked the seventh time in the past eight games that the Colts finished the game converting fewer than 40 percent of their third-down attempts. They were 0-for-6 on third down in the first half against the Bengals.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis proved earlier this season that he doesn't need Dwight Freeney on the other side to be an effective pass-rusher.

Mathis leads the NFL in sacks with 15.5 and is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year.

But Mathis is still not at the top of the Pro Bowl fan voting for outside linebackers. He trails Kansas City’s Tamba Hali (233,738 votes) and Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs (221,617) in the voting. Mathis has 217,191 votes.

I think Mathis should be higher than Hali and Suggs because they both only have nine sacks each. Mathis has also forced five fumbles this season.

Quarterback Andrew Luck and kicker Adam Vinatieri are the only other two Colts in the top 10 in voting at their position.

Luck is sixth amongst quarterbacks with 399,523 votes and the ageless Vinatieri is eighth amongst kickers with 41,848 votes.

To no surprise, Denver’s Peyton Manning leads the voting with 926,432 votes.

Fan voting, which ends Dec. 26, accounts for one-third of the ballot. Coaches and players also have votes that count a third. They vote Dec. 23-26.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 38-8 loss to the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Colts gave up a trifecta before halftime in their worst home loss under coach Chuck Pagano. The Rams scored a touchdown on defense, offense and special teams while jumping out to a very easy 38-0 lead during an embarrassing performance by Indianapolis. Rams rookie receiver Tavon Austin entered Sunday averaging 6.7 yards a catch. The Colts allowed him to have the breakout game that he needed. Austin roasted Colts cornerback Vontae Davis twice, as he finished with two catches for 138 yards. Both catches were for touchdowns. Austin also had a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown, which was helped by Sergio Brown tapping the ball to him while trying to save it from going into the end zone. And the Colts’ running game? It finished with 19 yards on 13 attempts. Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck combined to throw four interceptions.

Stock watch: Colts linebacker Robert Mathis recorded two sacks -- both in the first half -- increasing his season total to 12.5. His second sack set a team record for multisack games in a single season -- six -- and multisack games in a career with 26. Dwight Freeney has the Colts’ single-season record with 16, set in 2004. Mathis has seven more games to surpass that total and increase his odds to win Defensive Player of the Year.

Playing into the fourth quarter: Luck didn’t take all the snaps for the second time in his career. Pagano pulled Luck with the Colts down 38-8 with a little less than six minutes remaining. It’s a little surprising that Pagano didn’t take his franchise player out sooner, because it was pretty obvious that the Colts weren’t going to win the game. Luck finished the afternoon 29-of-47 for 353 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. He was also sacked three times. Luck entered the game having thrown only three interceptions.

What’s next: The Colts (6-3) don’t have much time to think about this loss because they have a short turnaround between games. They travel to Nashville to take on AFC South counterpart Tennessee on Thursday.

Robert Mathis adds to successful season

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis has a hundred dollar bill framed in his locker in honor of recording his 100th career sack earlier this season. Not that he’ll necessarily do it, but Mathis might have to slide that frame over a little bit to make room for his latest honor, one that wasn’t necessary to prove he doesn’t need former Colt Dwight Freeney on the field next to him to be one of the league’s best pass-rushers.

Mathis
Mathis was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for October on Thursday. He had 11 tackles, 4.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass defended in the month. He is also the last Colt to win the award. He did it in September 2010.

“The guy is just a pro,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Takes care of himself and he works at his craft. When you take care of yourself and you work year round like he does, I think obviously you’re able to do the things that he’s doing right now and being as productive as he is this far into his career.”

The Player of the Month award is nice and all, but it’s time to start talking about Mathis as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He leads the league in sacks at 11.5, which is already the fifth most in a season in Colts history, to go with 31 tackles and three forced fumbles. His five multi-sack games ties for the franchise record.

“Robert’s so impressive,” Houston coach Greg Kubiak said. “I think Chuck and those guys do a great job of getting him in position to make plays and be successful. Tremendous respect for him."

Luck paving his own way in Indianapolis

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The pressure was there for quarterback Andrew Luck. It was supposed to be there for him.

He was the No. 1 overall pick stepping in for a future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, in a state where it's the Colts and every other sport is trying to close the gap.

[+] EnlargeT.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerAndrew Luck has a 15-7 record as the Colts' starting quarterback and made a playoff appearance as a rookie.
Colts fans, some still upset over Indianapolis' releasing Peyton Manning, wanted instant results despite Luck stepping into an obvious rebuilding situation.

But for some reason, Luck didn't feel the pressure of having to replace an icon in the organization, the one responsible for making the Colts a fixture in the playoffs and leading them to a Super Bowl title after the 2006 season.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn't talk to him about it. Neither did veteran Reggie Wayne. What they saw was a mature 22-year-old player walk into the facility on the west side of Indianapolis with the mind frame that he was ready to try to live up to the standards Manning set during his 14 years with the organization.

"We all know how Andrew is wired and how he is," Pagano said. "We never went down that road. Certainly Andrew respects the guy as much as anybody else, understood whose shoes he was filling and all those type of things, so it wasn't a matter of having any long, lengthy sit-downs about that. Andrew being Andrew, wired the way that he is, obviously to this point has handled that and handled his first year with flying colors."

What Luck has done is slowly start to remove himself from Manning's shadow. That shadow won't be officially gone until he makes the Colts a regular in the playoffs and gets the multiple Super Bowl rings owner Jim Irsay seeks.

But the Colts know they're set at the quarterback position for at least the next decade barring injury, the same way they were when they picked Manning No. 1 overall in 1998.

Luck's too good and too much of a perfectionist to go backward. He doesn't carry himself as if he's only in his second season. You would think Luck has been in the league for several years by watching how he carries himself on the field.

He has proven his ability to win in the first 22 games of his young career. Luck is 15-7 and led the Colts to the playoffs as a rookie.

"I learned that very quickly from the guys that have been around, that it's a culture of winning," Luck said. "It's something that Mr. Irsay I think created, something that Coach Pagano is a believer in. I'm glad to be a part of a team that has a culture of winning and getting to the playoffs."

It helped that Luck didn't step inside the locker room feeling as if he had to put the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. He had veterans like Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Antoine Bethea and Robert Mathis to help with the transition.

Early on, Luck did more listening than speaking. Now, it's the other way around.

"He's doing it like the first pick of the draft should do," Wayne said. "He's taking it in stride. We as his teammates are doing our best to try to make him look good. He's being Andrew. What you see is what you get. He's handled it quite well and hopefully it gets better from here."

You would think Luck's goal would be to outduel Manning on national television, on the same field Manning led the Colts to three playoff appearances.

That's not what Luck is thinking about. He'll gladly hand the ball off 50 times if that's what it takes to beat the Broncos. He'll also throw it 50 times if required. But just know, it's not about Luck vs. Manning.

It's about the Colts trying to beat the Broncos. Luck wouldn't have it any other way.

"He knows what he has to do," Pagano said. "Everybody knows what they have to do. We've got to do all the fundamental things that good football teams and good football players do."
SAN DIEGO -- Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea is in his eighth season in the NFL. He’s watched as teammates have departed during that time.

Marvin Harrison. Bob Sanders. Dwight Freeney. Jeff Saturday. Peyton Manning.

That’s why Bethea isn’t buying into the hype surrounding Manning’s return to Indianapolis with the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

“We see players come and go all the time,” Bethea told ESPN.com. “We have to go out there and just play ball. I don’t think it’s going to be weird. The media is going to make a big hoopla about him coming back to Indy.”

Manning spent 14 seasons with the Colts, leading them to two Super Bowl appearances before the team released him in 2012.

The Colts have to quickly regroup from Monday’s loss to San Diego because all eyes will be on Lucas Oil Stadium when Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos visit in what should be one of the most watched games of the season.

Manning appears to be on his way to picking up his fifth MVP trophy. He’s passed for 2,179 yards, 22 touchdowns and only two interceptions while completing 74.2 percent of his attempts this season.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Bethea said. “He’s been playing that way his whole career. You’d be a fool to say you’re surprised. We’re really going to have to be on top of things next week. He’s a mastermind of what he does.”
INDIANAPOLIS – The Oct. 14 game at San Diego was supposed to be the start of back-to-back meetings between the Indianapolis Colts and two players who were key fixtures in the organization for a long time.

Dwight Freeney and the Chargers were to be up first, followed by Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos on Oct. 20.

Freeney
Freeney won’t face his former team, unfortunately. He is out for the rest of the season with a torn quad.

“We were all sick to see that his season was cut short by the injury,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “You can’t say enough great things about Dwight. I know we only had one season together, but when you look at what he did for this organization and this city and all those types of things and his production. He’s a great, great football player. Again, we all hated to see that his season got cut short. We don’t want to see anybody get injured, nobody on our team, nobody on our opponent’s team. You hate to see injuries, but they happen. Nothing but great things to say about Dwight.”

Colts linebacker Robert Mathis, who tormented quarterbacks opposite of Freeney for 10 seasons, recently said he knows his former teammate will bounce back from the injury and continue to be effective when he returns.

Freeney spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Colts, totaling 107.5 sacks and 258 tackles. Like Mathis, Freeney had to adjust his game to fit Pagano’s 3-4 defensive scheme last season.

“Coming in here in our first year, the strain that changing systems put on him and Robert and just how they bought in and did everything that we asked," Pagano said. "I got nothing but fond memories, obviously, and great things to say about him."

The Colts decided not to re-sign Freeney during the offseason. He told SI.com in August that the organization didn’t even make him an offer. “I wished they would have offered me something so I could’ve retired a Colt,” Freeney told the website.

Pagano will go against somebody he knows very well in San Diego next week. His younger brother, John, is the Chargers defensive coordinator.

“Another ballgame, it’s just another ballgame,” Chuck Pagano said. “We’ve played each other before. There’s no communication this week, for obvious reasons.”

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
4:27
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 34-28 victory against the Seattle Seahawks:

What it means: Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, the two best quarterbacks in the 2012 draft, didn’t disappoint. Wilson was creative with his arm and also with his feet, giving the Colts headaches all day. But in the end, it was Luck, the best quarterback taken since Peyton Manning in 1998, who made the necessary plays to send the Seahawks to their first loss of the season. Luck shook off three straight three-and-out possessions to open the game, leading the Colts on three scoring drives in the second half to help make up for a 19-17 halftime deficit. Luck was 11-of-16 for 132 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Wilson finished with 15-of-31 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Stock watch: Receiver T.Y. Hilton was the lucky one on the other end of Luck’s passes. The second-year receiver caught five passes for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns. Hilton caught a 73-yard touchdown pass from Luck in the first half, giving him four touchdowns of at least 60 yards in his short career. Only Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson has more touchdowns of at least 60 yards since 2012. He has six.

Mathis gets 100: Colts linebacker Robert Mathis became the 30th player in league history to get 100 sacks when he sacked and stripped Wilson on the final play of the first half. Mathis, who has been out to prove he can be effective without playing alongside former Colts star pass-rusher Dwight Freeney, finished with two sacks, giving him 9.5 this season.

What’s next: The Colts head out west for the second time this season when they play at San Diego on Oct. 14 in their lone Monday night game of the season.
INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Mathis’ first sack came on Sept. 14, 2003, against Tennessee at home at the RCA Dome.

Now, a little more than 10 years later, the Indianapolis Colts’ rushing linebacker can get the 100th sack of his career in front of the home crowd – this time at Lucas Oil Stadium – on Sunday when the Colts take on the undefeated Seattle Seahawks.

“Hopefully you keep it going and give the fans something to appreciate,” Mathis said.

[+] EnlargeRobert Mathis
AP Photo/Ric TapiaThe next time he takes down a QB, Robert Mathis will become the 30th player to reach 100 career sacks.
The next time he takes down a quarterback, Mathis would become the 30th player in NFL history to record 100 sacks. That’s something players such as Warren Sapp and Joey Porter never accomplished in their careers.

But go back to 2003, when the thought of reaching 100 sacks in his career was the last thing on Mathis’ mind. He simply wanted to stick on an NFL roster.

Mathis wasn’t talented enough, he was too small, he didn’t have a position, he played at a Division I-AA school. That’s all he heard from the critics.

Mathis wasn’t going to let the so-called experts keep him from getting where he wanted to be. And that’s why he’s on the brink of joining some special company.

“I tip my hat to Rob 'cause he’s one of the guys I look up to on this team,” Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. “Coming from a black college and what he’s been able to do in this league, he’s doing a hell of a job. He still plays with a chip on his shoulder. That says a lot about a guy who has made multiple Pro Bowls.”

Mathis teamed with Dwight Freeney for 10 seasons to harass quarterbacks as the bookends on the Colts' defensive line. Freeney wasn’t brought back during the offseason, leading to questions as to whether Mathis could still be effective without his partner.

Mathis didn’t try to act like he wasn’t aware of what was being said about him. He read and heard about the comments.

And so far this season Mathis has silenced the naysayers -- he's tied for the league lead in sacks with 7.5.

“That chip is still on my shoulder,” he said. “Me and Dwight, we got after the quarterbacks real good for a better part of a decade, so it’s something we did together. I guess that’s what kind of irks me a little bit. I don’t like being viewed as a beneficiary. I feel like that takes away from the grind and hard work and dedication I put in.”

Does Mathis feel he'll still have to prove himself after he gets his 100th sack?

Of course. He knows the criticism won’t stop.

“It won’t go anywhere until I’m done playing,” Mathis said. “So as long as I’m playing and I’m on the field, it’s something I have to prove.”

Colts still searching for pass-rush help

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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INDIANAPOLIS – One of the biggest questions not involving the offensive line with the Colts was who would be Robert Mathis' pass-rush partner.

That question started earlier this year when the Colts decided not to bring pass-rush specialist Dwight Freeney back. And it remains unanswered.

That’s not good when the regular season is just days away.

The Colts know that, too, which is why they acquired another pass-rusher in linebacker Cam Johnson from San Francisco on Monday. They released tight end Justice Cunningham to make room on the roster.

The Colts' front office liked what they saw on film from Johnson, who starred in the preseason for the 49ers. His performance in the preseason finale against San Diego sealed the deal for the Colts. Johnson, a seventh-round pick in 2012, had two sacks, blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. That performance earned Johnson a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man roster.

The Colts were hoping to get a better indication of who could complement Mathis, who had a team-high eight sacks last season, in the pass-rush department during the preseason. Rookie linebacker Caesar Rayford led the Colts with five sacks in the preseason, but he did it against backup players and won't likely get much playing time on defense this season.

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