Colts' Addai comes up big in losing effort

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the first round of the 2006 draft was reaching its conclusion, the Patriots and Colts were looking for franchise halfbacks.

The Patriots selected Laurence Maroney to be the eventual replacement for Corey Dillon. That left the Colts with Joseph Addai.

Although Addai might not make Indianapolis forget about the team's all-time rushing leader, Edgerrin James, he clearly is making a name for himself.

Addai did everything he could to give the Colts a chance to beat the Patriots on Sunday. He rushed for 112 yards on 26 carries. He caught five passes for 114 yards, including a game-turning 73-yard touchdown catch-and-run through the entire Patriots secondary just before halftime. About the only thing he didn't do was jump in on defense and try to stop Tom Brady during the Pats' fourth-quarter rally.

Maroney, meanwhile, wasn't a big factor. He rushed for 59 yards on 15 carries but didn't have a play longer than 9 yards.

Addai won the individual battle, but Maroney and the Patriots escaped with the 24-20 win.

"We still came out in the second half and played hard, and obviously they played harder the whole game and got the job done," Addai said. "When you lose, it's kind of hard. But at the same time, we've got a lot of games to play. We're going to forget about this game and go back and watch it and learn from the mistakes and get ready for next week."

Fearing what quarterback Peyton Manning could do through the air, the Patriots primarily lined up in a 4-2-5 defense. Bill Belichick felt the four-man line gave his team the best chance to contain the Colts' running offense. Having safety Rodney Harrison as a nickel linebacker allowed the Pats to match up against Colts tight end Dallas Clark. The extra defensive back gave Belichick some ways to disguise coverages to foil Manning.

There was only one problem. The Patriots couldn't stop Addai.

"I though he was incredible," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said.

Addai had to fill a lot of voids in the Colts' offense. Marvin Harrison was out because of inflammation under the kneecap, a problem that has kept him out of practice for close to a month. Wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez dislocated his left thumb on the first play of the game. Left tackle Tony Ugoh was out with a neck stinger. The Colts needed an offensive player to stand up.

That player was Addai.

"It was whatever they were giving us,'' Addai said. " We were able to run it, and we took advantage of it."

The Patriots know Maroney is their best running back, but he hasn't been completely durable. Though skilled, he only has the potential to be their franchise back.

Addai already has fulfilled that promise in Indianapolis.

John Clayton, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame writers' wing, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.