Colts DE Freeney enjoying chase for NFL record
Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney still gets a thrill out of the chase. Whether he's trying to split multiple blockers or has a chance to exploit those rare one-on-one matchups with his spin moves, Freeney's goal never changes and his motor never stops. His job: Put opposing quarterbacks on their backs, something he does with more efficiency than just about anyone in the NFL. "You want to get that sack because that's our bonus," Freeney said with a smile Wednesday. "I guess in a perfect world, starting the game, it would go first play, sack, second play, sack, third play, sack, and then you could go to the locker room." If only it were that easy for opponents to get Freeney out of their backfields. His 9 1/2 sacks rank third in the league this season and on Sunday night, against bitter rival New England (6-2), Freeney has a chance to run down NFL history. If he can take three-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady to the ground, Freeney will tie the record for most consecutive games with a sack (10). Denver's Simon Fletcher and Dallas' DeMarcus Ware are the only other players to do it. Clearly, it's a concern for Brady. "He's the best pass-rusher in the league and he's been that way since he came into the league," Brady said. "Any time you're playing them (the Colts) you don't have as much time to throw so you've got to make those decisions quicker." Indy fans are not surprised. They've watched Freeney fine-tune a rare blend of speed and power to confound opponents, and just when linemen think they've figured out the dizzying spins, the 6-foot-1, 268-pound end throws them off with a powerful bull rush. Most analysts thought Freeney was too small to hold up in the NFL when the Colts took him with the 11th pick in the 2002 draft out of Syracuse. Indy (8-0) knew better and Freeney has been proving the doubters wrong ever since. Freeney has recorded more sacks (80) over the past eight seasons than anyone except Miami's Jason Taylor and forced more fumbles (36) than anyone in the NFL. The Colts expected nothing less. "In that system, Dwight is the key," former coach Tony Dungy said. "You have to have pressure and force people to block you. That's why Bill (Polian) took Dwight with the first pick after I got there. We thought Dwight was the best player to do that, and it turned out to be a great marriage between a great player and a great system." And Freeney, now 29, isn't slowing down. He is on pace to break the franchise's single-season record for sacks (16), which he set in 2004, and could finish with a career-high in tackles. He needs one more sack to match last season's total (10 1/2), and Freeney has fit into Indy's revamped defense perfectly, even when he's asked to drop into coverage. Freeney missed the last seven games in 2007 after having surgery on his left foot, an injury that still bothered him early last season. This year, he has played through a strained right quadriceps that was supposed to keep him out four weeks and cartilage that broke loose in his right knee a couple weeks ago. But he hasn't missed a game. "Dwight is a great football player, who prides himself on coming in and getting better," said linebacker Gary Brackett, the defensive captain. "Last year, he was coming off of an injury. This year, I think, has been one of his better years." Numbers are not the measuring stick Freeney prefers. He steers the discussion away from Indy's unbeaten season or the fact Indy needs one more win to match New England's 18-game winning streak, second-longest in league history. The Patriots also hold the NFL record of 21 straight from 2006-08. He doesn't want to talk about the sacks record, either. Instead the Hartford, Conn., native would rather focus on doing his job even better. "I've never been a big records guy. You know, I like to think if he had held onto the ball just one more second, I might have three more sacks," Freeney said, referring to no quarterback in particular. "It has been fun. There is a new energy around here because we have a new coach and new things. But you measure the year at the end."