INDIANAPOLIS – It might be an oversimplification or an exaggeration to suggest third-and-one was why the Indianapolis Colts drafted Delone Carter.
Then again, you do not have to go back too far in the team history books to find such situations that were not converted and proved costly.
So when the Colts faced that very situation in the third quarter against Washington on Friday night in Lucas Oil Stadium, there was no doubt who would get the call.
"It's just a situation that I feel like I'm prepared for," Carter said. "They called my number and I got to execute."
Carter took the handoff from quarterback Dan Orlovsky, found the middle of the line clogged and broke to his right, racing 11 yards for a first down that extended what could have been a pivotal drive in a 16-3 loss.
"One of the things we really wanted to try and concentrate on was situations where we could get into third-and-ones and see if we had enough wherewithal to control the line of scrimmage and see if we had any short-yardage runners," said Coach Jim Caldwell. "He's one of the guys we want to take a real good look at in that situation because obviously he's built for it. As you can see he runs the ball inside well. It was good to see him crack that one and break a few tackles along the way."
Carter provided several highlights on that drive, in fact. The 5-9, 225-pound rookie running back from Syracuse picked up a first-down on a 10-yard burst off the right side in which he broke two tackles. He caught an eight-yard pass from Orlovsky that set up the third-and-one.
His 11-yard gain on that conversion gave the Colts first-and-10 at the Washington 42 and two plays later Orlovsky appeared to connect with Taj Smith on a potential game-changing play, a 40-yard pass deep inside the Redskins' 10-yard line. But Washington challenged the play and officials overturned the reception, saying Smith was juggling the ball as he went out of bounds.
"Carter had some nice runs, he banged it in there pretty well and found some seams to work in," said Caldwell. "So there were a couple of bright spots here and there but not nearly enough."
After rushing six times for 29 yards in last week's 33-10 loss to the St. Louis Rams, Carter carried four times for a team-high 25 yards Friday night, bringing his preseason totals to 10 carries and 54 yards.
Fellow rookie Darrin Evans carried four times for 14 yards to maintain the overall lead in rushing yards with 66 on 12 carries.
"I just calmed down and really let the game come to me instead of trying to make something happen," Carter said. "That's the worst thing you can do at this level, I've learned, so I just relaxed and played the game.
"Mentally it's catching up to me, and I'm just trying to progress every week. I'm just trying to get used to what's going on around me and the atmosphere and just let the game come to me. It's a process every week. It'll never be done. I've always got to study and always got to be a student of the game. That's what I'm trying to be."
The preseason is about progress from week to week and Carter believes he took another step forward.
"It was an inch," he said, "but I'm trying to get some yards."