INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts have had very good luck in their Indianapolis era when it comes to drafting running backs.
Albert Bentley, Roosevelt Potts, Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James spring to mind quickly, while Anthony Johnson, Lamont Warren and Zack Crockett even provided highlights during their years.
Fifth-round pick Vick Ballard has emerged as the club's leading rusher this year with 667 yards on 164 rushes.
On Sunday at Houston in his 10th straight start, Ballard rushed 18 times for 105 yards to produce the club's first 100-plus outing this season. The last time it was done was by Donald Brown last December 18.
Ballard went into the Houston game with the spotlight focused largely on him. This past week, the Colts placed Brown and Robert Hughes on injured reserved. Indianapolis added Mewelde Moore, who had been with the team earlier this year, as well as Deji Karim, who was released at the end of preseason.
Called a "poor man's Edgerrin James" by Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians early last week, Ballard came in for more praise after his performance.
"He ran extremely well," said Arians to Colts Radio. "I thought we had a plan coming in where he would have a good day. He made guys miss, and that's the type of player he is. He's just going to get better and better."
Ballard now has set personal highs in consecutive games. A week ago against Tennessee, he rushed 19 times for 94 yards, including 12-for-77 in the second half when the Colts staged their sixth comeback victory.
At Houston, Ballard had nine carries for 43 yards in the opening half, including a 19-yard burst on the team's first scoring drive.
When Indianapolis cut a 20-3 deficit to 23-17 late in the third quarter, Ballard was a large part of the impetus. On that 80-yard drive, he carried for gains of 15, nine, one, 12 and 23 yards before Dwayne Allen ended the march with a scoring reception.
Indianapolis has a 3.9 rushing average for the season, and Ballard has topped 4.0 yards per rush seven times and has a long rush exceeding 10 yards in nine straight games. His rushing average at Houston was 5.8
"He was running extremely well today," said tackle Anthony Castonzo. "If there was a small hole, he was finding it. That definitely was the bright spot today, the play of Vick.
"It's exciting to have a young guy playing that well. We need to stay two-dimensional and have that threat throughout the game. We don't want the opponent to just play the pass. It's good we have that option."
Arians knows the grind of a long season can take its toll on a young player. Still he feels the ball is not heavy and Ballard can shoulder the workload.
"He's powerful. He's quick. He's elusive, doesn't have the great, great speed but he can make the first guy miss and he's going to make a lot of yards because he makes people miss," said Arians. "He's tough, and I think he's a winner. He'll show up and play big."