While Peyton Manning and his wide receivers were busy setting records, Edgerrin James quietly took a back seat this season.
He didn't pout, whine or complain.
All James wanted was to fulfill his role with one of the best offenses in NFL history.
"He's a workhorse, the key piece to our puzzle," wide receiver Reggie Wayne said. "Without Edgerrin, this offense doesn't go."
It might seem strange that a two-time league rushing champ could be overshadowed so easily, but the Colts have no ordinary offense.
They scored 522 points, the fifth-highest total in league history. Manning set NFL marks with 49 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 121.1. The Colts receiving trio -- Marvin Harrison, Wayne, and Brandon Stokley -- became the first ever with 1,000 yards and 10 TDs.
But his teammates say it was James who kept the offensive machine running smoothly.
"Nobody is more appreciative of Edgerrin than me," Manning said.
For James, it has been that kind of year -- lots of appreciation, little publicity.
He wasn't the same back after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in October 2001. The next two years, his darting moves and powerful bursts were sporadic, his breakaway speed limited.
This year, the last on James's current contract, he again demonstrated the ability to break tackles, fake out defenders, make long runs and even catch big passes.
James finished third in the AFC with 1,548 yards, averaged 4.6 per carry, scored nine touchdowns and caught 51 passes for 483 yards. That gave him more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage for the third time in his career.
The reward for his most productive season since 2000: a return to the Pro Bowl and a second-team All-Pro selection.
"This means more because I was able to get back playing at this level," James said after earning his third trip to Hawaii. "It shows how hard I worked to get back."
Broncos on offense -- A good way to keep the Colts' offense off the field is a healthy dose of running back Reuben Droughns, who was sixth in the AFC in rushing with 1,240 yards. Jake Plummer passed for 4,089 yards, and his elusive running (202 rushing yards) may keep the Colts' defensive rush at bay. The offense is no slouch, ranked sixth in the league with a 395.8-yard average. Rod Smith had fewer receptions (79) than Colts star Harrison (86), but Smith had more receiving yards (1,144 to 1,113). Ashley Lelie and Smith each had seven TD receptions.
Colts on offense -- The Colts were the only team in the NFL to score 500-plus points (522), and they scored 40 or more points in four consecutive games. Whether it's blitzes, nickel packages, the 3-4 or the 4-3, nothing stops Manning, who shredded records like the defenses designed to stymie him.
Broncos on defense -- All signs point to a solid defense: The Broncos were fourth in yards per game (278.7), but they don't create a lot of turnovers (20 total), even with the offseason additions of star cornerback Champ Bailey, who had a team-high three interceptions (and zero return yards on the picks), and jaw-breaking safety John Lynch. The Broncos allowed 19 points per game, tied for ninth in the NFL.
Colts on defense -- Overlooked amid the team's offensive prowess, the defense was tied for third in takeaways (36) and recovered 17 fumbles (second in the NFL). No quarterback is safe with ends Dwight Freeney (league-high 16 sacks) and Robert Mathis (10 1/2 sacks) rushing from the edges, but the defense allowed an average of 370.6 yards per game, fourth highest in the NFL. The Colts allowed 21.9 points per game, third highest among playoff teams (behind Minnesota and Green Bay).
Special teams -- The Colts' Mike Vanderjagt is superb, even in a subpar season (20 of 25 on field goals). Jason Elam of the Broncos was second in the league in scoring with 129 points (behind Adam Vinatieri's 141). Although the Colts rarely have to punt (54 times -- only Kansas City punted fewer times) Hunter Smith was second in the NFL with a 45.2 punting average.
Miscellany -- The Broncos defeated the Colts at Denver, 33-14, in the final game of the regular season. The Colts, behind Manning's five TD passes on the first five possessions, annihilated the Broncos in the playoffs last season, 41-10.