INDIANAPOLIS – Every time Vick Ballard glanced over to the Colts sideline during the fourth quarter he got the same look back at him.
With backup running backs Delone Carter and Robert Hughes sidelined with injuries, it was Ballard who would be called on to tote the rock for a majority of the second half.
Not only did Ballard carry the load, he did it efficiently with 12 carries for 77 yards after halftime in outgaining opposing running back Chris Johnson by 50 yards on the afternoon.
Ballard said he knew it was all up to him at the tailback position in the second half, and even he got banged up late in the fourth quarter following a three-yard carry with 5:32 remaining.
"I was the last one left," Ballard said of the running back position. "I got a stinger and it hurt when I first got it, maybe for 30 seconds, then I went back in and didn't feel it because of the adrenaline."
Indianapolis took a timeout as Ballard was tended to on the sidelines, and tight end Weslye Saunders looked around thinking of whose number possibly would be called if the rookie running back could not return.
"We did discuss that and it was one of those situations where nobody even blinked an eye. It was like, 'Who needs to go in?' If (Ballard) goes down then what are we going to do? That was real big by Vick," said Saunders.
Following the timeout, Ballard would re-enter and added 11- and 13-yard runs to help the Colts keep the ball out of the Titans hands for all but a few minutes of the final 10:28.
"We were in a position where we knew we had to run the ball and then we saw LaVon (Brazill), T.Y. (Hilton) and Reggie (Wayne) and I'm like, 'Where's our running backs?' That was a real tough move by (Ballard) to come back in after being banged him. Kudos to him," said tackle Anthony Castonzo.
Paving the way for Ballard in the second half was backup center A.Q. Shipley and the always-versatile Jeff Linkenbach.
Starting center Samson Satele (ankle) and right tackle Winton Justice (biceps) exited the game at different points in the first half and like they have so many times during the season, Linkenbach and Shipley delivered.
"If I'm not starting, I've got to be ready to go in at any moment," Shipley said. "Last week it was guard, this week it was center. I owe it to my teammates to play well."
Castonzo has been the lone mainstay on an offensive line that has had to shuffle in different pieces on nearly a weekly basis.
Seth Olsen started the first three games of the season at left guard but was placed on injured reserve in early October. Olsen returned from injured reserve this week and after Joe Reitz suffered a concussion against the Lions, Olsen found himself back in the starting lineup on Sunday.
"Every time they are called upon, they do the job like a starter," Castonzo said. "That's what B.A. (Bruce Arians) preaches. When someone goes down, we expect the guy behind him to step in and do the job, no drop off. I think we've been able to do that, and that's a credit to them."
It remains to be seen what the Colts would have done had Ballard not gutted it out in the game's final five minutes. Running back Donald Brown did not play on Sunday due to a knee injury.
In his rookie season, Ballard has been a durable, productive back that the Colts have counted on each week and has helped put a team within one win of possibly returning the playoffs.
"Coming into rookie minicamps, I was just focused on trying to learn the plays and learn the offense," Ballard said. "A couple injuries happened to the backs ahead of me and that bumped me up. I just try and take advantage of my opportunities."