Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robert Mathis' Career Year Raises His Colts Profile

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robert Mathis' Career Year Raises His Colts Profile

Article excerpt

Robert Mathis' most amazing feat is simple: He made Indianapolis Colts fans forget Dwight Freeney.

Colts fans still appreciate Freeney's remarkable run, no doubt about that. He'll go in the team's Ring of Honor one day. He has an argument for the Hall of Fame. He was the defense's version of Peyton Manning for most of Manning's run in Indy.

But Mathis' record-setting 2013 season has relegated Freeney to the rearview mirror.

"In my book, (Mathis) is the MVP," Colts defensive end Cory Redding said. "And in my book, he's Defensive Player of the Universe."

Say what you will about Andrew Luck's play in leading the Colts back from a 28-point deficit to a 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday in their AFC wild-card playoff game. Everything said about Luck is legitimate. He came through in the clutch.

Here's another truth: Luck doesn't get his chance without Mathis' sack/strip of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.

"We know (Mathis') motor doesn't stop on the field," Redding said. "When his team needs him the most, he steps up and makes a play. That's what great leaders do."

For 10 years, Mathis was Robin (an extremely fit, large Robin) to Freeney's Batman. While Mathis racked up his fair share of sacks, many credited his success to the fact teams were game-planning and double-teaming Freeney. Yet he's had his best season, somewhat inexplicably, in his 11th year at age 32, with Freeney gone.

All of those seasons, Mathis was the team player, never begrudging Freeney his attention or his status. Mathis was always working, always honing his craft. When Mathis talks with the media, he's insightful, thoughtful, playful and witty. But he's not the type to go searching for the reporters or the cameras.

They've come to him this season, as he broke Freeney's Colts records for sacks in a season and a career, marks Mathis now holds at 19.5 this season and 111 in his career. He became only the second player over age 30 to lead the NFL in sacks. The first, who did it twice, was retired New York Giants star Michael Strahan.

The next sack is always the biggest, of course, and New England's great Tom Brady awaits at 8:15 p. …

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