Remembering 2006, Super Bowl XLI: Gary Brackett

Photo of the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl XLI ring.

Photo of the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl XLI ring.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The bunch that inspired a frigid procession through Downtown Feb. 5, 2007 after delivering the Lombardi Trophy to the Circle City returns this weekend.

In recognition of the 10th anniversary of the Indianapolis Colts’ 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, the team will honor its world champions at halftime of Sunday’s game with the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. More than 40 players and coaches have RSVP’d they’ll attend.

In the days leading up to the reunion, some prominent figures share memories of the organization’s first world championship in three decades.

GARY BRACKETT: The defense

I think back to the Jacksonville Jaguars game where they rushed for 400 yards or whatever it was (375). That was kind of like a turning point for our crew in terms of, ‘OK, what are we going to do?’ We knew we had to get tougher and we had to be more disciplined on defense.

It wasn’t just that we gave up 375 rushing yards. It’s how it happened. We could not physically stop them. It was abusive. We were playing with our fourth or fifth safety. And the Jaguars ran the same play. It was bad tackling, man. It was getting in our gaps. It was one of those games you wish you could have back. It was just one of those games, but we were like, ‘Man, if we can just stop the run, we’ll be able to put a string together.’

What happened was (the coaches) put Rob Morris in the lineup at Sam linebacker. For me, that was a tremendous help having another Mike linebacker on the field. Essentially the Mike is the quarterback on defense. You give out the calls for the alignment, the safeties, everybody. Sometimes either I wouldn’t get us (in position) on time or whatever. It can be very difficult for that to be on one person. Having Rob going in there and being confident making those calls and adjustments really gave me the freedom and ability to focus more on playing football and making plays versus just orchestrating the defense.

Getting Rob out there was key. And we got Bob Sanders back shortly thereafter. That combination on defense rally solidified what we were doing scheme-wise. We had players who were more system guys that can really go in and do a great job. Rob at strong-side linebacker made a big difference. He really gave us that aura of confidence when he was out there on the field with us.

When we got to the playoffs, we came to play. We were having fun. Guys were getting after it. It was a heckuva run.

We set the tone against Kansas City and Larry Johnson (12 carries, 32 yards). People thought teams could just run the power-O against us because we were a small team. We actually did better against power running teams. We struggled against zone teams.

I just like to remember that we were an overall good team. It never bothered me that the offense got the glory. It is what it is. Deep down inside, I know the offensive guys and the coaches appreciated what the defense did.

Like I said, it was a heckuva season. Was it our best team? Probably not, right? But that was the team that got it done.

BALTIMORE - JANUARY 13:  Gary Brackett #58 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates during their AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens on January 13, 2007 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE – JANUARY 13: Gary Brackett #58 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates during their AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens on January 13, 2007 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The rest of the story: The offense shook off its playoff malaise long enough to mount an epic second-half comeback that stunned the Patriots in the AFC Championship game and send the Colts to Super Bowl XLI.

But the rest of the journey was made possible by Brackett, Morris, Sanders and the rest of the defense. Johnson was limited to 32 yards after piling up a Chiefs’ record 1,789 yards during the regular season. Kansas City was held to 44 rushing yards and 126 total yards, each playoff lows allowed by Indy’s defense.

During the four-game playoff push, the defense allowed averages of 238.5 total yards, 82.8 rushing yards, 155.8 passing yards and 16.5 points. While it’s an admittedly small sample size, those averages would have ranked No. 1, No. 3, No. 1 and No. 1 during the regular season.

And the leading tacklers during the postseason? Linebacker Cato June led Indy with 26, followed by Brackett (23), Sanders (22) and Morris (21). Sanders also had a team-best two interceptions and four defended passes.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51